Michael Schumacher apologised for taking the race seat he was hoping to occupy in 2010, Nick Heidfeld has revealed.
With Schumacher returning to F1 this year, the German pair are united this year at Mercedes GP, with 32-year-old Heidfeld in the reserve role.
But prior to the seven time world champion Schumacher deciding to come back to F1 after three years in retirement, Heidfeld was the favourite for the Mercedes race seat, after putting his talks with McLaren on the back burner.
"McLaren wanted to have me," Heidfeld, who is tipped to succeed Pedro de la Rosa as the chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers Association, revealed in an interview with Sport Bild.
"The negotiations were very close to a conclusion," he said.
But then Jenson Button's talks with Brawn broke down amid the Mercedes takeover, the Briton switched to McLaren, and Schumacher accelerated his talks with Ross Brawn.
Heidfeld was the loser of the deal, but he still had talks in the works with other teams.
"But I decided (to wait) for Mercedes," he explained, also revealing that he would probably have signed with Brawn for 2009, had BMW not taken up its option on him.
When the rumours about Schumacher's comeback hit boiling point, Heidfeld got on the phone with the 41-year-old German and realised he was serious about returning.
"When we saw one another at the Jerez test for the first time, he in a way apologised to me that he had taken the place. It was a nice gesture, but if the reverse was true, I would have done the same," Heidfeld said.
He said he has maintained a normal training regime and is completely ready to drive the W01 car if required.
"For 2011 I see a good chance of getting back a race seat," Heidfeld insisted.
"For the moment I am concentrated on my role at Mercedes. What comes as a result, we will see," he said.