Mid-season driver changes don't happen often in Formula One, but they do happen occasionally. And the Sauber team – formerly owned by BMW – has done exactly that. After the bulk of a season of lackluster performance, the Swiss team has announced that it is removing Pedro de la Rosa from the cockpit for the grands prix left on the calendar.
In his place, Sauber has called Nick Heidfeld back up to the plate. Having spent seven seasons driving for Sauber in the past, scoring a dozen podiums along the way, Heidfeld is a known and proven talent at the team's headquarters in Hinwil.
Despite his talents, the German driver failed to secure a race seat for the 2010 season, and was retained instead by Mercedes as a test driver. He was subsequently released from his contract with Mercedes when he was recruited by Pirelli to test its new tire compounds, but will likely have to give that up given his renewed ties to Sauber.
Heidfeld will be driving alongside Kamui Kobayashi, who despite having failed to finish more races than de la Rosa, has scored more than three times as many points. With 27 world championship points and five races to go, Sauber sits in 8th place out of 12 in the constructors' championship standings, just ahead of Toro Rosso and the new teams. Will Heidfeld help the team turn around from the backmarkers they are now to the title contenders they were just a couple of seasons ago? Share your thoughts in the comments section below, or follow the jump for the team's official announcement.
Hinwil, 14th September 2010 - Sauber Motorsport announces a driver change: From the Singapore Grand Prix, 23rd to 26th of September 2010, until the end of the season Nick Heidfeld will be driving the second C29 alongside Japan's Kamui Kobayashi. Thirty three-year-old Heidfeld from Germany replaces Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa (39). The team's contract with Nick Heidfeld comes into effect on Friday, 17th September.
Team Principal Peter Sauber said: "It was a hard decision for me to make as a Team Principal and I want to thank Pedro for his professionalism. By signing Nick we have a driver we know extremely well who will help us to further judge the comparative potential of our car."
Pedro de la Rosa: "I am surprised by the team´s decision, but I respect it and would like to wish everyone good luck for the remainder of the season. I still intend to be in Formula One for 2011."
Nick Heidfeld: "I'm looking forward like crazy to having the opportunity to go racing again in a good car in Formula One from the Singapore Grand Prix onwards. After the last months I'm even more motivated than ever. For me it is like coming home, as I raced for seven years in total for the team from Hinwil. Without doubt I will be feeling at home straight away and this should help me to familiarise myself as soon as possible with the car. I want to thank Peter Sauber for the faith he has put in me."