BMW Sauber announced Monday the Formula One team will retain race drivers Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld, and test driver Christian Klien for the 2009 season. The team cited continuity for the decision. "We see Nick and Robert as a strong...
BMW Sauber announced Monday the Formula One team will retain race drivers Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld, and test driver Christian Klien for the 2009 season. The team cited continuity for the decision.
"We see Nick and Robert as a strong driver pairing and Christian as an experienced test driver," team principal Mario Theissen said.
Kubica is third and Heidfeld fifth in driver standings. Krakow, Poland, native Kubica, the first Pole to drive in F1, delivered the team's first victory, in Canada this year, and is seen as a potential world champion. Heidfeld trails current world champion Kimi Raikkonen by a point.
The job of Monchengladbach, Germany, native Heidfeld had been seen at risk as his results slipped earlier in the season. At the weekend, he became the first person to drive a Formula One car in Seoul, South Korea, mooted as a future race site. A crowd estimated at 20,000 watched.
German carmaker BMW, who from 2000 to 2005 supplied engines to Williams F1, bought the private F1 team founded by Peter Sauber at the end of 2005, chose to honor the Swiss privateer by keeping his name connected to the team, and established dual team headquarters in Germany and Switzerland.
The team's best result came this year when Kubica and Heidfeld scored a 1-2 finish in Canada. The two drivers have finished in the points in every race this year, have placed in the top three nine of 15 times, and placed the team a solid third in the FIA World Constructors' Championship. But improvements were perceived to have stalled somewhat in the latter half of this season, leading to a frustrated outburst by Kubica.
BMW Sauber's decision is significant not only to Heidfeld's future but to that of former world champion Fernando Alonso, the only two-time world champ currently active in F1. The German-Swiss team talked to the Spaniard who currently drives for Renault. Alonso has been connected to Ferrari, BMW Sauber and Honda this season even as a contract clause is said to commit him to the French team in the event of a fourth-place constructors finish. Renault are fourth in those standings with 51 points. Ferrari just lost its lead to McLaren Mercedes, 135-134, as Honda languishes in ninth with 14 points, outpointing only Force India, which has yet to score. The presence of Ross Brawn, world championship winner at Benetton and Ferrari, notwithstanding, Honda has been slow all season without showing the improvement of Alonso's Renault R28.
Ferrari confirmed at the Italian Grand Prix last month that race drivers Felipe Massa and Raikkonen will stay with the scuderia through 2010. Massa trails McLaren's Lewis Hamilton in the FIA World Drivers' Championship by seven points, 84-77.
The announcement by Williams last week to keep Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima, both second-generation F1 drivers, dovetailed with the former BMW engine user having been named one of the United Kingdom's most recognizable brand names. The only runner in F1 not to have the financial backing of a carmaker or a billionaire, Williams has revealed losses amounting to nearly $100 million in the past two seasons, but chief executive Adam Parr told Reuters news agency the team is well-funded for the future.
BMW engines powered Williamses to 10 victories, collected by Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya between 2001 and 2004. Among many issues between BMW and Williams during their time together was that of driver nationality. BMW officials felt strongly at least one German should be employed to race, thus Schumacher and Heidfeld drove for the English team. Now using Toyota engines, Williams employs Nakajima as a condition of supply.