BMW announced on September 16th that Nick Heidfeld has signed to race for the team in a three-year deal starting in 2006. The German was expected to move to BMW in 2007 as his current team, Williams, had an option on him for next year, but ...
BMW announced on September 16th that Nick Heidfeld has signed to race for the team in a three-year deal starting in 2006. The German was expected to move to BMW in 2007 as his current team, Williams, had an option on him for next year, but that option expired this week. It's speculated that Heidfeld may not return to competition with Williams this season as he is suffering from a cracked shoulder.
Heidfeld is no stranger to Hinwil, Sauber's Swiss base which BMW will take over in 2006 and run as a team in its own right. After his F1 debut with Prost in 2000, Heidfeld raced for Sauber for three years. In 2004 he spent the season with Jordan before moving to Williams in 2005. This season he scored his first pole position in Europe and his best finish to date is second in Monaco and Europe.
"I'm really looking forward to the future," said Heidfeld in a statement released by BMW. "As far as I'm concerned, this represents the fulfilment of a big dream. I have a great deal of respect for the work carried out in Hinwil from 2001 to 2003."
"And for nearly a year now, I've experienced at first hand the commitment and resources BMW puts into its Formula 1 project. Naturally, I'm not expecting a miracle during the first season after a new start in 2006. But I'm confident that the new team will be successful over the long term."
BMW is due to take over Sauber at the beginning of January and it marks the end of the manufacturer's long-term partnership with Williams that started in 2000. BMW intends to expand the Hinwil base, which will be run in conjunction with BMW headquarters in Munich. Heidfeld is the first race driver to be confirmed by the new team.
"For us, a new era in Formula One will begin on 1 January 2006 when BMW takes over the team operated by Peter Sauber," said BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen. "We are very pleased that Nick will be with us in what will undoubtedly be a difficult initial phase."
"He is not simply a fast and courageous driver, he is also an analytical and meticulous worker. Nick already knows the two sites in Munich and Hinwil, and is familiar with everybody involved."
Williams' option on Heidfeld seemed a good fall-back plan should Jenson Button not return next season, but given that Williams has not retained the German does it mean Button will be back with the Grove team? Talks have been ongoing between the two but Button is adamant he wants to stay with BAR.
However, Williams may have just decided not to pick up Heidfeld's option whether Button returns or not, as Nick was intent on heading to BMW for the future anyway. Test driver Antonio Pizzonia will again stand in for Heidfeld in Brazil and it's rumoured that Williams may try out second tester Nico Rosberg in either Japan or China.