After the waiting, the testing and then some more waiting, Nick Heidfeld was finally announced as Williams' second race driver at the launch of the FW27 at Valencia on January 31st. Heidfeld won out over rival Antonio Pizzonia to partner Mark Webber this season and the talented German now has his chance to race with a top team. Pizzonia will remain with Williams as official test and third drvier.
"I really wanted this job," said Heidfeld. "Driving for the BMW WilliamsF1 Team is the greatest opportunity of my career. I will do everything I can to show that I deserve this place and I'm counting the days to the first Grand Prix. 'Racing' against Antonio was a lot of fun. He's a great team-mate. I respect him and I would also have taken on the job of test driver."
Team principal Sir Frank Williams commented: "It wasn't an easy decision for us to make, and there was little to choose between the two of them, and we were in the fortunate position to be able to choose between two drivers who would be a credit to any Formula One team. Ultimately, however, it is Nick who has got our vote, but I am delighted that we have strength in depth with Antonio taking up the position of official test and reserve driver."
Heidfeld started his F1 career with Prost in 2000 and moved to Sauber the following year. He and then-teammate Kimi Raikkonen gave the Swiss squad its best ever finish of fourth in the constructors' championship in 2001. After another two seasons with Sauber, Heidfeld went to Jordan in 2004 but had a difficult time with the struggling team.
When contract wrangles prevented Jenson Button moving to Williams for 2005, the Grove squad was suddenly on the lookout for someone to partner the already-signed Webber. Heidfeld initially appeared to be an outside chance, while Brazilian Pizzonia, test driver for the team, seemed the favourite after deputising for Ralf Schumacher in several races last year.
But Heidfeld's performances in winter testing with Williams were impressive and the team decided he was the better option than Pizzonia. Unsurprisingly, Pizzonia was a little disappointed but is ready to continue his role as tester. "I'm a racing driver and naturally I would rather be racing in all the Grands Prix," he said.
"But in the past I have also learnt how important test work is for the success of the team as a whole. I also know as official reserve driver that you have to be ready to step into a race seat at any time. Although it is not the decision I wanted, I'm pleased to be part of the BMW WilliamsF1 Team in 2005 and will give my best to help the team's performance this year."
BMW motorsport director Dr. Mario Theissen said: "All three drivers were very strong in the most recent tests -- not only behind the wheel but also when working together with the engineers. The new team has grown together quickly and harmoniously. I'm very pleased for Nick. He earned the seat with his strong performance. Antonio knows that, as a test driver, he is also taking on a key role in the team."