Mercedes has confirmed that it has released Nick Heidfeld from his reserve driver role so that he can take up his new job as Pirelli’s official test driver.
Pirelli had earlier made it clear that in the interests of fairness it did not want to have a driver associated with an existing team, or indeed one who had ambitions to race again in the future, so the nomination of Heidfeld came as a surprise.
While the Mercedes news has addressed the first issue Nick still has ambitions to compete – and indeed one of his own bosses says his Pirelli experience will make him a valuable asset for another team.
Mercedes in theory has now safety net should either Nico Rosberg or Michael Schumacher be unable to race in the latter part of the season, but one imagines that should that be the case Heidfeld might just find that he is available after all…
Ross Brawn said in a statement: “We can confirm the team is pleased to allow Nick Heidfeld the opportunity to join Pirelli and contribute to their development work for the company’s imminent return to Formula One. Nick is an extremely experienced driver and we are confident that his racing knowledge and technical feedback will prove extremely useful to Pirelli and therefore of benefit to the sport as a whole. Nick has been a real asset to our team this year and we are pleased to see his career progressing.”
Norbert Haug added: “It was clear from the beginning of our cooperation that Mercedes GP Petronas would release Nick from his obligations as soon as a promising opportunity as an active Formula One driver developed. This is now the case and there could be no more experienced and knowledgeable driver in the cockpit to steer the tyre development for next season. We thank Nick for his contribution to our team over the last nine months and wish him well with his new challenge. It would be great to see Nick in a competitive car in next year’s Formula One World Championship and I am sure his leading role in the new tyre development, in addition to his skills, puts Nick in a good position for the remaining seats in 2011.”
Heidfeld said: “First of all I would like to thank Ross Brawn, Norbert Haug and Nick Fry for allowing me the opportunity to become Pirelli’s official test driver. The team has always said that they would not stand in my way if such a chance arose and they have kindly allowed me to take up this exciting new role.
“I would like to thank everyone at Mercedes GP Petronas for the great cooperation that we have had this year. I have greatly enjoyed supporting the team in my position as Reserve Driver and have felt welcome right from the outset. It was impressive to have the opportunity to work with the current World Champions and I wish the team all the best for the remainder of the season and beyond.”