Filling the proverbial shoes of Robert Kubica is no easy task. The grand prix winner – one of only 102 in history – is the first Polish driver to make it in Formula One, and he is rated as one of the best in the business. Fill his space, though, is exactly what Renault has had to do after Kubica's unfortunate crash in an Italian rally left him severely – if not critically – injured. But if anyone's up to the task, it's Nick Heidfeld.
The two were former teammates for several years at Sauber, and for his part, Heidfeld has finished more races than any other driver on or off the grid. He's also become the de facto go-to guy for outfits who need an experienced driver to step in post-haste, having been selected by Pirelli to test their new F1 tires and then brought back to Sauber when Pedro de la Rosa wasn't working out last season.
Having tested Heidfeld at its recent Jerez session, the Lotus Renault GP team has announced that they've selected the German driver to take Kubica's place until he's able to return to racing. Heidfeld's selection wins out over Bruno Senna and Romain Grosjean, both of which also have race experience (albeit considerably less) and are contracted members of the team's test-driver roster.
After stints at Prost, Sauber, Jordan and Williams – to say nothing of McLaren and Mercedes GP where he's served as a test driver – Renault will make the fifth team for which Heidfeld will now have driven over the course of the eleven consecutive years he's now been on the grid since his debut at the 2000 Australian Grand Prix. His best result to date was the fifth place finish he scored at Sauber in the 2007 Championship and his eight second-place grand prix finishes. Follow the jump for the official announcement.
Nick Heidfeld joins Lotus Renault GP
Lotus Renault GP is pleased to announce that Nick Heidfeld has joined the team, taking over driving duties from the injured Robert Kubica, starting at this week's test session in Barcelona.
The 33-year-old German is one of the most experienced drivers in Formula 1 having started 172 races over the last 11 seasons. He will race alongside Vitaly Petrov when the season gets underway in Bahrain on 13 March.
Nick Heidfeld: "I would have liked to come back to Formula 1 in different circumstances, but I'm proud to have been given this chance. 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."
Eric Boullier: "The team has been through a very difficult couple of weeks and we had to react quickly. 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."
Barcelona test session
The driving schedule for the upcoming Barcelona test (18-21 February) is as follows:
• Friday morning: Nick and Vitaly for pit-stop practice
• Friday afternoon: Vitaly
• Saturday: Nick
• Sunday: Vitaly
• Monday: Nick