Mercedes GP release Nick Heidfeld for Pirelli test role
Mercedes GP have released reserve driver Nick Heidfeld from his contract for him to become Pirelli’s tyre test driver.
Heidfeld took up the role as Mercedes reserve driver after BMW pulled out of Formula 1, but he failed to find a race seat for 2010 despite 10 years’ experience.
Pirelli will replace Bridgestone as the sport’s sole tyre supplier from 2011 after the Italian manufacturer signed a three-year deal.
“We are confident Nick’s knowledge and feedback will prove extremely useful to Pirelli and benefit the sport as a whole,” said Mercedes boss Ross Brawn.
Heidfeld had been touted for the test role with Pirelli earlier in the season based on his consistent performances in his race days as he holds the record for the highest number of consecutive race classifications with 41.
With good race seats at a premium for 2011, the Pirelli role will allow Heidfeld to put himself firmly in the shop window with the new tyres potentially an advantage for any team next year.
Heidfeld will use last year’s Toyota’s F1 car, the TF109 chassis, with a late-season aero package to test the tyres all the teams will use.
The TF109 was recommended by FOTA for its contemporary technology and performance to give the tyres the best possible test, but without giving any single team an advantage for 2011.
Following Heidfeld’s on-track development work for Pirelli -which will include tests at Mugello, Jerez, and other circuits yet to be confirmed -all current F1 teams will have the chance to try out the new tyres following this year’s finale at Abu Dhabi in November.
“We’re delighted to welcome Nick into the Pirelli family and we’re confident that he’ll do a great job for us,” said Pirelli Motorsport director Paul Hembery.
“The role of test driver is crucial so we were looking for a driver who had plenty of recent F1 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.”
Heidfeld will be expected to run long sessions in the Toyota, at times up to 500 miles a day, with Pirelli focusing on tyre performance rather than quick lap times.
Pirelli’s last involvement in F1 came when they supplied Tyrrell, Brabham, Dallara and Benetton in 1991, with their last race victory coming at the 91 Canadian Grand Prix.