By Alex Kapadia
Pirelli confirmed Nick Heidfeld as their full-time test driver today as they launched their maiden tyres development test.
The Italian tyres manufacturer have been out of the sport for 20 years, but will return in 2011 as sole suppliers to F1 after signing a three-year contract with the FIA.
Veteran German racer Heidfeld got the testing underway at Mugello earlier today after he was granted a release from his contract as Mercedes GP reserve and test driver in order to take up the position with Pirelli.
Paul Hembery, motorsport director for Pirelli, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Nick into the Pirelli family, and we’re confident that he’ll do a great job for us.”
“The role of test driver is a crucial one, so we were looking for a driver who had plenty of recent Formula One experience, the speed to push our new tyres as hard as possible, and the consistency to provide reliable simulations, as well as the analytical skills to relay information accurately to our engineers.
“Nick fits the bill in every respect and we’re very pleased to have secured his services and obviously thankful to Mercedes GP Petronas for agreeing to release Nick from his contract.”
With 169 races under his belt, Heidfeld is confident that he’ll be able to deliver useful data during his testing stints behind the wheel of the Toyota TF109, the car the Japanese manufacturer used in 2009 – their last season in the sport – which provides a perfect model for the testing.