Heidfeld joins Mercedes as reserve driver

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Mercedes GP Petronas has announced the signing of veteran F1 driver Nick Heidfeld as their reserve driver and tester for 2010. Heidfeld’s recent position was with the exiting BMW Sauber team in 2009 and is a 10-year veteran of the sport. The appointment is a positive move for Heidfeld:

“I am very pleased to be joining the MERCEDES GP PETRONAS Formula One Team. It’s the team which has attracted the most interest in the close season, not only because of the comeback of Michael Schumacher, but also because this season sees the return of the Silver Arrows cars as a Mercedes-Benz works team for the first time in over fifty years. Whilst I would of course have preferred a seat as an active driver, I am really proud to be part of the new Silver Arrows team. I have seen how committed everyone at the team is and I feel the same. I will be doing my very best to support Michael and Nico this year.”

Team boss Ross Brawn is also confident of the choice in reserve drivers:

“It’s a great pleasure for us to have signed a driver of the calibre and experience of Nick Heidfeld as our Reserve Race Driver and Test Driver for the 2010 season. Nick has over ten years of experience in Formula One working with established teams and he will be a great asset to MERCEDES GP PETRONAS. I am confident that his input into the development of our MGP W01 car will be invaluable. We look forward to welcoming Nick to MERCEDES GP PETRONAS and working closely with him.”

Nick was the McLaren Mercedes test driver for the 1998 and 1999 seasons, during which time he had two successful years in Formula 3000, as runner-up in 1998 and winning the Formula 3000 Championship, held alongside the Formula One races, in 1999.

Nick began his Formula One career with the Prost team in 2000 and since then has participated in 167 Grands Prix driving for Sauber (2001-2003), Jordan (2004), Williams (2005) and BMW Sauber (2006-2009). He had his best Formula One season in 2007 when he finished in fifth position in the World Championship. To date in his Formula One career, Nick has achieved 12 podium finishes.

If I am honest, I would have liked to see Heidfeld in a car for the 2010 season as a driver but relaistically I am not sure what opportunities there really were for him. The new teams (Campos Meta, USF1, Virgin, Lotus) were often mentioned as a possible home but with pay-to-drive being the norm and some of the teams on tenuous financial ground; it may not have been a realistic option or goal for Heidfeld.

Staying relevant in F1 must be key for Heidfeld if he relishes another chance as a top driver in a team. Having failed to win a grand prix in his career and always working from less than superior cars, Heidfeld has struggled to achieve what many believe he might have given the right opportunity. Many in F1 can claim the same circumstances but Heidfeld seems a cut above many who have come and gone before.

Personal biases aside, this is most likely the best option for Heidfeld as there are precious few seats left in F1 and being a reserve driver for Mercedes GP Petronas is better than being the number one driver of your couch. Can Heidfeld remain diligent with a potential chance at a race seat in teh future? Time will tell but until then, Mercedes GP is in good hand with the development skills of the German driver.

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