BMW Sauber announced on October 19th that Robert Kubica will race alongside Nick Heidfeld for the 2007 season and Sebastian Vettel will be the team's test and reserve driver. Heidfeld, already confirmed for next year, was partnered by Jacques Villeneuve until August and then 21 year-old Kubica replaced the Canadian.
Kubica impressed on his debut at Hungary when he finished seventh but he was subsequently disqualified as his car was underweight. He finished outside the points in Turkey then scored his first podium with third at Monza, but difficult races in China and Japan did not add to his tally. The Pole has nonetheless done a good job and secured his seat for 2007.
"For me to be confirmed as a driver for the team in 2007 proves that in the last five races I have done the job expected of me," said Kubica. "Although we still have the season's final race to go, I feel I can start my 2007 season now. It is a good feeling when you know exactly what your racing plans will be and I think any driver who can approach the next season before the current one is finished can really be properly prepared."
"The experience I have gained this year as a Friday driver up to the Hungarian Grand Prix also means that I shall know the tracks from this year we will be racing on and, therefore, have some valuable data for the start of each grand prix weekend."
19 year-old German Vettel, who previously competed in Formula BMW and the F3 Euro series, made his F1 debut as BMW's third driver at Istanbul and has made his mark since by topping the times in the Friday practice sessions more than once. Both he and Kubica were thought most likely to retain their seats and complete BMW's line up for 2007.
"I'm over the moon," said Vettel. "This is a tremendous step in the right direction. I have always dreamed of sitting in the cockpit of such a fast car on a regular basis. The task that awaits me is clear: I will do everything to help the team as a test driver and to push developments forward. I would like to thank the whole team for the trust they have placed in me, and also for giving me the opportunity earlier this season of being regularly involved as the Friday driver. It has paid off."
BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen has always been keen on Kubica and while he initially shied away from the possibility of putting him in the race seat next year, Kubica's performances have convinced of his potential. "Robert, before he was signed as a test driver less than a year ago, was an unknown quantity," Theissen commented.
"From the outset he made an outstanding impression on his test drives and in the Friday practice sessions. The reward was the switch to a racing cockpit in Budapest, a move that was vindicated when, in only his third grand prix, he made it onto the podium. Following these accomplishments, we have confirmed his position as a team driver for 2007."
"After Robert's promotion, an even younger driver was tapping at the door: 19-year-old Sebastian. He has accumulated major successes in the junior racing arena but hasn't yet clocked up many kilometres in a Formula One car. Even so, he immediately picked up from Robert's achievements in Friday's practice sessions, both in lap times and set-up work. This debut was reason enough for us to confirm him as our test driver."