Spanish driver Pedro de la Rosa will replace Nick Heidfeld as Pirelli’s official test driver, as the legendary Italian firm gears up for its Formula One return.

Heidfeld was recently appointed as a race driver for Sauber over the remainder of this season after carrying out the initial tests with Pirelli’s new Formula One tires. He was replaced by Frenchman Romain Grosjean at Monza last week, who will continue to test for Pirelli alongside de la Rosa.

The 39-year-old de la Rosa has raced for Sauber this year and was for many years McLaren’s third driver, meaning that he has a wealth of Formula One experience from both the past and present. The Spaniard was confirmed in his new role at a press conference near Istanbul, held to mark 50 years of Pirelli’s presence in Turkey, where all the Formula One, GP2 and GP3 tires for next year will be produced at a state-of-the-art facility in Izmit.

I’m really pleased to be joining Pirelli,” said de la Rosa. “Tire testing is something that I have always enjoyed as it is a very big challenge, especially in Formula One. The information you can get from telemetry and sensors is valuable, but nothing replaces the individual feeling of a driver with new tires, so I hope I can be a real asset to Pirelli. There’s not a lot of time left and a huge amount of work to do, but I’m very much looking forward to it and I am sure that our collaboration will be a success. A lot of useful work has been done already and now we have the opportunity of taking it forward.”

Pirelli completed two days of testing at Monza in Italy last week, which concentrated on defining the construction of the new Formula One tires. Grosjean completed a number of long runs consisting of 30 to 40 laps each, in order to check the durability and consistency of the tire in warm conditions. Thanks to its fast straights and aggressive kerbs, Monza is an extremely demanding circuit for tires, which stood up to the new challenge very well. At the same time, Giorgio Pantano continued to test the new GP2 car, which will also run on Pirelli P Zero tires next year as well as its feeder GP3 Series.

Romain jumped in to do some durability testing and did an excellent job,” said Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery. “The objective of this test was to confirm the structural specification of the tires we will use for the first time at the test in Abu Dhabi, and we now move on to working on our rain tires and compound definition. Moving forwards, we will also be joined by Pedro de la Rosa, who has the benefit of having the most recent Formula One experience and is a renowned tester. So far, everything has gone according to plan and we’re pleased to report that we are only about a second per lap off the times of our predecessors, which is a great achievement.”

Pirelli’s next round of Formula One tests will take place in Spain in early October, where de la Rosa will take the wheel of the Toyota TF109 for the first time.

Pirelli Tire North America designs, develops, manufactures and markets tires for passenger vehicles in both the original equipment and replacement markets as well as markets and distributes tires for motorcycles and motorsports. Located in Rome, Georgia, Pirelli’s Modular Integrated Robotized System (MIRS) employs state-of-the-art technology to manufacture tires for both export and domestic markets. For more information please visit www.us.pirelli.com .