It looks as though former BMW Formula 1 pilot Nick Heidfeld is destined for reserve driver status with the Mercedes team next season. Although Heidfeld had been rumored to be on the Mercedes short list of potential drivers to partner Nico Rosberg at the Brackley-based squad in 2010, an early November phone call made by Ross Brawn to Michael Schumacher put an end to that possibility.
There has also been some talk that Heidfeld might once again team with former BMW team mate Robert Kubica, who has been signed to drive for Renault in 2010. While Renault team principal Eric Boullier acknowledged that Heidfeld has been under consideration for the Enstone-based team’s second seat, the German has been only one of four possible drivers on Boullier’s shopping list, which is far from making a Renault slot a certainty for the German driver.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that Heidfeld and his management team have opted to accept an offer for a reserve driver position with Mercedes, rather than waiting to see which way the wind blows at Renault. If the Renault deal were to come to naught, they could easily be left out in the cold. Aside from Renault, the only remaining seats are pay-to-play drives with the likes of USF1 or Campos, which would definitely be a drop in status for Heidfeld.
As reported on ESPNF1, Heidfeld’s manager Andre Theuerzeit said, regarding the Mercedes option, “Nick wants to concentrate fully on his job as test driver and support the regular drivers with his experience. Nick had focused on having a [race] cockpit with the top teams, but their decisions were rather late. So we’ve gone for another opportunity.”
Unfortunately, being test driver isn’t what it used to be. In fact, the current commonly used nomenclature is reserve driver, not test driver, since there is precious little actual testing done under the current test-ban regulations. Reserve drivers find themselves with little to do during most of the season, besides lingering in the paddock, and waiting for a mishap to befall one of the regular drivers. It’s for this very reason that former McLaren tester Pedro de la Rosa has opted to accept a drive with Sauber this year, rather than extending his testing contract at McLaren.
While Theuerzeit added that Heidfeld hadn’t actually signed a contract yet, it’s expected that an announcement will be made at the team’s launch in Stuttgart on Monday.
Image by Red-Cyan, licensed through Creative Commons.