The Spaniard had hoped to return to the F1 grid this season with Hispania Racing F1, following his failed campaign with Sauber Ferrari in 2010. However, with HRT confirming Italian racer Vitantonio Liuzzi for a full-time seat in 2011 alongside Narain Karthikeyan, de la Rosa quickly regrouped and decided to join his long-time employer as a tester once again.
“Of all the teams I've driven for in formula one, McLaren is the one that really feels like home,” said de la Rosa after signing the deal with McLaren.
The 40-year old driver had been employed by the Woking based team between 2003 and 2009 and had performed testing and 3rd driver duties through his 7-year tenure. Only briefly he got to actually drive a McLaren during racing weekends in 2005 and 2006, at the expense of Juan Pablo Montoya (who was sacked by the team midway through 2006).
His return to McLaren will leave a vacant seat at Pirelli, for which the Spanish driver had been performing testing duties for the past few months. The Italian marque is expected to announce a replacement in due time. For the time being, Romain Grosjean will remain their only tester for 2011.
As far as de la Rosa's role in the McLaren organization goes, he will be test and reserve driver, while Gary Paffett will retain his role as a test driver but will not attend racing weekends, focusing on his DTM commitments.