After posting impressive lap times in his first test outing with the team at Jerez, Heidfeld’s position strengthen off the back of that as Renault admitted it might consider other experienced pilots for the vacant seat.
The 33-year-old has a lengthy F1 experience dating back from his debut with the Prost team in 2000, with a 172-race career also including stints with Sauber, Jordan, Williams, and BMW Sauber. He holds one of the longest winless streaks in the history of the sport, but has finished as race runner-up eight times.
The German will partner Vitaly Petrov while lead driver Robert Kubica is sidelined after seriously injuring himself in a rally accident less than two weeks ago.
“The team has been through a very difficult couple of weeks and we had to react quickly,” said team boss Eric Boullier, when announcing the appointment of ‘Quick Nick’.
“We gave Nick a chance in Jerez last week and he really impressed us. He’s quick, experienced and is very strong technically with his feedback and understanding of the car.
“We always said the priority was to have an experienced driver in the car and we feel he is the ideal man for the job. We are pleased to welcome Nick to the team and look forward to a strong start to the season with him and Vitaly in Bahrain.
For Heidfeld, this presents a surprise return to the sport after an indifferent five races in the final half of the 2010 season with Sauber, and it looked very much like the unassuming man would be left on the sidelines for the 2011 season.
“I would have liked to come back to Formula 1 in different circumstances, but I’m proud to have been given this chance,” Heidfeld added.
“Everything has happened so quickly, but I’ve been very impressed by what I have seen so far in terms of the facilities and the dedication of the people at Enstone.
“I really enjoyed the test last week in Jerez and I’ve already settled in well with the guys at the track. I have a good feeling for the car, which is quite innovative. I’m extremely motivated and can’t wait for the season to begin.”
[Original image via Renault F1]