By Alex Kapadia
A question mark hangs over whether Nick Heidfeld will continue in his role as tyres test driver for Pirelli after signing to race for the rest of the season with Formula One team Sauber.
The German driver has replaced Pedro de la Rosa and is set to take over from the Spaniard for the next Grand Prix in Singapore and the four remaining races.
The 33-year-old, who drove for Sauber from 2001-03 and again from 2006-09, said: “I’m looking forward like crazy to having the opportunity to go racing again in a good car in Formula One from the Singapore Grand Prix onwards.
“After the last months I’m even more motivated than ever. For me it is like coming home, as I raced for seven years in total for the team from Hinwil.”
Heidfeld had begun the season as a test driver for Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg at Mercedes, before landing the job with the Pirelli, who will take over from Bridgestone as the sole tyres supplier at the end of the season.
Heidfeld’s recent tests in the Pirelli-equipped Toyota have given him a chance to get back up to speed in the sport. However, it remains to be seen what happens now to Heidfeld’s Pirelli deal, because he was released by Mercedes specifically to test for the Italian tyre company on the basis that he would not be tied in any way to a current team.
His Sauber contract starts on Friday, which coincides with the end of this week’s Pirelli testing at Jerez, which F1 experts suggest means Heidfeld may have to forego any relationship with Pirelli, at last until after the last race of this year in Abu Dhabi.
Logic suggests that De la Rosa, who has been dropped after only managing to score six points so far this season, will be a sensible choice for Pirelli to continue its tests, because he has up-to-date experience of Bridgestone’s current 2010 tyres.