Heidfeld gets Mercedes third driver role

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Nick Heidfeld
Nick Heidfeld

Mercedes has confirmed Nick Heidfeld will be their third driver in 2010.

The news means Heidfeld will not be on the grid for the first time since the end of the 2005 season, when he was sidelined with injury.

He has contested 167 Grands Prix since 2000.

Heidfeld said:

I am very pleased to be joining the Mercedes GP Petronas Formula One Team. It’s the team which has attracted the most interest in the close season, not only because of the comeback of Michael Schumacher, but also because this season sees the return of the Silver Arrows cars as a Mercedes-Benz works team for the first time in over fifty years. Whilst I would of course have preferred a seat as an active driver, I am really proud to be part of the new Silver Arrows team. I have seen how committed everyone at the team is and I feel the same. I will be doing my very best to support Michael and Nico this year.

Heidfeld was supported by Mercedes earlier in his racing career and won the 1999 F3000 championship while backed by them.

He made his F1 debut with Prost the following year before moving on to Sauber. But he failed to gain a place with McLaren-Mercedes when Mika Hakkinen left the team at the end of 2001, the team choosing his Sauber team mate Kimi R?â?ñikk?â?Ânen instead.

The signing of Heidfeld alongside Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg cements Mercedes’ all-German driver line-up – while rivals McLaren have an all-British squad of Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and third driver Gary Paffett.

It also means Mercedes have signed three drivers who are statistically the most dependable of all time. Heidfeld holds the record for the most consecutive race classifications – 41 – followed by Rosberg (27) and Schumacher (24).

See the updated list of 2010 F1 drivers and teams

130 comments on “Heidfeld gets Mercedes third driver role”

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  1. I think it is not a good news.
    It seems the end of Heifeld F1 driver career, and I’ll miss him. He’s one of those drivers (like Johnny Herbert was, for example) that rarely do mistakes and are very regular and constant. Not a good news he will not have a wheel next season.

    1. Well, you never know – look at de la Rosa!

      1. probably de la rosa is paying that spot

        1. Im 17 and I follow f1 since 98 nick is one of the few drivers that entered most of the seasons ive watched

          1. Yet in all of his seasons of consistency, he has never won an F1 race. I’m not bothered by him moving on.

          2. He didn’t win.. not like he was driving anything fantastic. I’d imagine if nick were driving for points with the merc team he’d get a couple wins.

    2. he had his chance, now let’s let the young drivers show what they got. he drove for some decent teams, and didn’t even get a victory.

      1. None of his team mate ever got a victory also, apart from Kubica in Canada. This has some meaning, I think.

        1. Nick Heidfeld almost always out shined his team mates. Kubica was an exception during 2008, but even then Heidfeld was second place at the Canadian grand prix that Kubica won.

          1. Mike "the bike" Schumacher
            4th February 2010, 16:32

            And he should have won that race too. Hopefully he’ll take schumi’s place when he retires for good.

      2. He didn’t have his chance! That’s the thing! He was better than Raikkonen and Kubica yet didn’t get a chance at McClaren and now he’s passed for a chance at Mercedes. It’s sad, really! He’s the most consistent driver ever and he’s a racer pur sang. His qualifying could be better and in sheer speed he’s not as fast as Raikkonen, Alonso, Kubica, Schumacher and Hamilton but he’s definetly a great tactician who dares to take risks and manages to drive extremely consistent.

        1. Heidfeld’s career hit a plateau when Kimi was chosen to get Mika’s spot in his stead.

          i still don’t understand why McMerc chose the Quiet Fin over the trusty German..

  2. Despite my dislike for Heidfeld, I would rather see him as an active driver.
    This year’s field is full of… n00b drivers.

    1. I agree, I would have liked to see USF1 pick him up…but I guess they want n00bs with money…

  3. Now I have some questions in my mind.
    1.Will he test in any day on the remaining 12 days left?
    2.Will he replace Schumacher if he is injured (neck)?

    1. 1.Will he test in any day on the remaining 12 days left?

      I think that’s very unlikely when you consider the lengths Schumacher’s gone to get any running available to him.

      If he does, it will be at Rosberg’s expense. But Heidfeld’s so experienced it’s hard to make the case he needs it. He’ll be in the simulator.

      2.Will he replace Schumacher if he is injured (neck)?

      That’s what Heidfeld will be hoping! Whether he actually goes as far as leaving banana skins and bars of soap on the floor of the Mercedes garage is another matter…

      1. This is the guy who moved over for Kubica when asked (granted, otherwise he’d be impeding Kubica’s race) and, upon securing 2nd place — thus knowing that the result would have been a 1-2 either way — while looking dejected, never said anything bad.

        I’m sure he’ll get his chance, but I’m also sure that he won’t compromise his integrity (*cough* Alonso *cough*) in so doing.

      2. Someone has already commented that Heidfeld hasn’t won any races yet, but IMO Rosberg’s performances are hardly vastly superior to Heidfeld.

        Be very interesting if Rosberg doesn’t come up to expectations as support for MS ( rather like the way Kovalainen didn’y do the job Mclaren needed him to do… )

        As we all keep saying…going to be an interesting season.

    2. Heidfeld will be actively employed in the simulator and will attend events in his reserve capacity, should anything happen to Nico Rosberg or Michael Schumacher.

    3. 2.Will he replace Schumacher if he is injured (neck)?

      Alternatively, you could ask whether Schumacher really ended his test early yesterday with a hydraulic problem, and get the conspiracy theories started…

      1. I haven’t read James Allen’s book about Schumacher, but I’ve heard that Michael was suffering with his back and his neck for a lot of 2006.

        If MotoGP riders can race with broken collar bones and fingers missing, I’m sure Schumacher would be keen to keep any problems quiet even if it meant resorting to the kind of extremes (local injections etc) the bikers sometimes do.

    4. Bearing that in mind, it’s either surprising that Davidson gave up the reserve driver role, or not surprising that he wasn’t preferred over another German driver depending on how cynical you are.

      My mind constantly goes back to last year when Norbert referred after McLaren’s return to form at the NewBurgerandOnionRing as “We made it very clear things had to improve for the home grand prix.” Martin Whitmarsh’s face when asked to follow up that comment was a picture of diplomacy – and a wry smile as it signalled things to come.

  4. “I am very pleased to be joining the Mercedes GP Petronas Formula One Team.”

    Yeah, right. Surely Nick know’s that being a test driver in post recession F1 means being a spectator. I hope he finds a drive later this season, or mabye in 2010. Who knows, mabye Schumi’s neck will give way before long- although I doubt that will happen…

  5. Ahhhh this is a bummer… I really wanted him to be actively involved in the coming seson.

    1. He was potentially down to a choice between this or a race seat at Campos or US F1. Would they have been better choices?

      1. I think that would’ve been a better choice. Chances are those teams don’t make it to the grid or prove to be to slow, but racing is always better than watching from the sidelines. Especially since he is a sort of invisible driver (consistent and fast but never really shines). I don’t think we will see him back in 2010.

        1. That said, if Schumacher isn’t going to be with Merc for too long (a couple of seasons max?), Heidfeld would be an ideal teammate for the new first driver which would be Rosberg. Just a thought.

          1. Yeah right, especially when another German driver, younger, probably more talented will be available. Does Vettel ring the bell? By the time the spot at Merc will be available, even Hulkenberg can surpass Heidfeld. So I’m betting all my money that he WON’T become a permanent MGP race driver.

            His only hope for MGP drive is Schumi’s/Nico’s injury. I really can’t see it happening other way.

            I think it is really the end of Heidfeld’s career if he insists on staying in MGP. Nick, please, get out of there in 2011. You deserve better.

      2. Point taken.

      3. This isn’t surprising but I think it is a shame.

        I couldn’t see Nick at a new team; he’s never been very warm about them and previously said he wasn’t even looking at them. It would mean he would have to swallow his pride if he did sign for them and also be a sort of self demotion, he clearly feels he can do better than a new team.

        Sauber was supposed to be the best bet but it felt like he wasn’t top of the list. It was more that assumptions were made that because he raced for BMW Sauber last year he would again this year but there was never much movement on that front.

        He took a gamble and wanted the big drive with Merc. I wonder if he ever really believed in Schumi’s return. If he didn’t (which wouldn’t be surprising) then the gamble didn’t pay off but if he did maybe it was his plan all along and Renault was never a serious option.

        I can’t really blame him for going for a third driver role with Merc. Schumi is a driving master but he’s 41, retired once and the FIA may have given him the all clear with his neck but doubts will still linger. A three year contract is quite a long one and it looks like the grid will be extremely competitive so Michael could get frustrated. It’s a long shot but it is a shot. Nick clearly wants a go at a big team after so long in F1 and settling for a smaller team would confirm his career is in decline, Renault are unsteady and have a bad few years so maybe this was worth the risk.

        The other point of interest is Renault. Nick and the team were linked for a while so who turned their backs on a potential deal first? Petrov’s money would certainly be a factor and he would be a breath of fresh airn for the team. But Renault have gone through a tough time so maybe experience and someone to really push Kubica would have been very appealing also.

        This will influence how we rate Kubica too. I think Petrov will be good but with limited testing and him being a rookie he has a job on his hand coming close to Kubica. It could end up like the Williams 09 situation-we knew Rosberg was good because Nakajima really struggled but because Nico was never pushed we never knew if he got everything out the car he could so he always looked good but it was hard to tell how good he really was.

        I liked Nick I thought he was hugely underrated although he does seem to have a lot of fans on this site. He pushed Kubica hard and I know he won the team mate battle overall but Kubica was a rookie when he was first against Heidfeld. What really impressed me was after 08 Kubica was the one who won the most respect out of all the grid (despite a mistake at Bahrain and Nick letting him through at Canada) because he kept fighting on despite BMW’s development freeze. Maybe a bit of it was heightened sympathy for Kubica’s plight but he was the rated star coming into 09 and had experience but Heidfeld beat him. He didn’t do it in spectacular style but he got his head down, got the first podium and did the job.

        Nick may be the quiet one of the paddock but he showed he had talent. I think he should have a race seat but it’s his own fault and at least he took a gamble.
        Anyway he’s some good footage of Nick in action. He had some good times with Alonso and Cooulthard.


        1. Agree with pretty much all of that Steph, he took a shot that didn’t pay off (which was not his fault at the end of the day, and other teams never realky looked that keen on him, preferring other or pay drivers). Any of the seats left would have been beneath him, and this way he has an outside shot at a good drive, should something happen.

          I think to treat this as a kind of end of the road for Heidfeld would be to forget that things were inevitably heading that way when the McLaren and Mercedes seats were filled.

        2. Wow Steph that was comprehensive, there’s more than 600 words there!

          I agree with what you say though- who can blame him for trying for the Mercedes seat? He has spent most of his career in mediocre cars, and this was his best chance to get to get a ride for a top team.

          It failed, of course, but kudos for trying. I hope to see him back in a race seat soon.

          1. Yeah sorry it was so long didn’t realise until after I clicked ‘submit comment’ :P

        3. That’s exactly right. He took a gamble and he should. He shouldn’t start from scratch to build a new team up from the ground. He had that period, he deserves to be in a racing seat with a good team. He might take over from Button at McClaren, he’s surely a better driver than Jenson is. Renault had the best driver on the grid and couldn’t do anything for 2 entire seasons. I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon. Sauber looks strong but he couldn’t foresee that either. The only real option left was Merc. Perhaps next year! He can take over for Barrichello, Schumacher or Fisichella somewhere, those guys are old!

      4. what about lemans, or going to america, those would have been more brave choices. There is live outside f1. Right now to be a test driver is not a good choice.

      5. Who knows most likely not but it is a shame not to see him on the grid. Also with that I think Renault shafted Romain Grosjean. But that is my opinion.

  6. Prisoner Monkeys
    4th February 2010, 11:00

    Well, I can’t say I’m disappointed by this. Heidfeld might be a nice guy, but I’ve never really rated him as a driver. Maybe that was a product of poor career choices, maybe it was a result of not quite being good enough to make it big, or maybe some third option. But he’s always been thoroughly underwhelming for me. He’s out-performed team mates, but those same team mates have then been drafted into Ferraris and McLaren while Heidfeld has wallowed in obscurity. I’m not sorry to see him go after spending so long trundling around as Formula 1’s “almost” man, but I’ve long felt that he represents what has been in the sport, and to continue giving him drives deprives someone who represents what will be the chance to add something to the grid.

    1. Oh not again. We have heard your rant about Heidfeld not being rated a driver once before.

      Im just wondering now who will get the seats at Campos and USF1, im having doubts of them not making the grid next year, which is a shame.

      And for Heidfeld I see that Abu Dhabi 2009 was his last F1 race.

  7. Well, maybe there is some kind of deal for next year in it ?
    I mean, MS won’t last forever, and Heidfeld would be in the place, knowing the car…

    1. I would be very surprised if they replace schumacher with anyone other than vettel.

      1. Vettel or Hülkenberg. Both extremely talented drivers. Heidfeld should be looking for a spot on the grid for next year, you never know what’s going to happen. Perhaps Massa gets nother crash or indeed Schumacher. Be that as it may, Mercedes have got themselves an extremely strong team as far as drivers and engine is concerned. The only thing that’s going to play a huge part now is the development/design of the car but if Schumacher can tell the engineers where the problems are, it’s going to be a great car.

    2. Prisoner Monkeys
      4th February 2010, 11:38

      Schumacher has a three-year deal. And you can bet that Mercedes will want Sebastian Vettel in the very immediate future.

      1. CounterStrike
        4th February 2010, 11:51

        Schumi most certainly wouldn’t last 3 seasons.

      2. Yep I see Vettel. It would be a dream for the team if Mercedes could get him. Oddly I could picture Lewis there but simply because I think he lost a little bit of faith in the team after Aus although he will probably stay at Mclaren for a long while yet.

  8. Personally, I rate him as a good driver and nothing more. As such I think he’s had a good crack at the whip compared to a lot of others.

    That isn’t to say his experience would not be useful to some of the new teams, and so I’m surprised he’s not in for a Stefan/Campos drive to be honest. But I’m not going to feel all sad for him… he had enough chances.

    I would now advise him to hide some of Schumacher’s pillows or something similar!

  9. Now we have a team full of drivers who will “continue their respective runs of most consecutive finishes adding another to the most boring statistic in F1…”

  10. A shame, as I think the refuelling ban might suit Nick – he has a good record of well-timed tyre stops, in the wet at least.

    What else is in it for Heidfeld? Can’t see him racing an F1 Merc, or driving on occasional Fridays like Paul di Resta. Can’t see any value in that, or Schumacher ever allowing it.

    I guess he’ll be considered for any F1 race seat that comes up, but I hope he’s aware that it seems to take 3 or 4 years of test driving to get back into a race drive (judging by de la Rosa and Wurz)…

    Any news of a deal to drive DTM for Merc?

    1. “Can’t see any value in that, or Schumacher ever allowing it.”

      I guess during the season, 41 year old and well accustomed to the car Schumacher wouldn’t mind somebody else prepping the car for him so that he can save up physically.

  11. For me that has to be end of his racing career. He certainly will never get a drive at Mercedes.

  12. Here’s an idea. Now, I know that most teams don’t like the idea of their drivers competing in other series, but how about Nick or some of the other guys enter themselves into GP2 FR3.5 or similar to keep themselves race-sharp?

    1. I don’t know about FR3.5 but GP2 has some restrictions on letting over-experienced drivers compete. Certainly ex-champions can’t (I wonder if they’d extend that to ex-F3000 champions like Heidfeld).

      That said, Glock, Pantano, Pizzonia and Bruni are among the ex-F1 drivers to have stepped down to GP2. It served Glock well, the others not so much.

      1. I also meant to say FR will probably come with too many Renault coloured strings attached making it hard for someone like Nick to drive for them.

        1. Having an experienced and successful F1 driver step back into one of the lower formulas (as F1 drivers routinely did in the 1960s and early 1970s) would certainly provide an interesting spectacle.

          But I suspect the main barriers would be money and reputation. Heidfeld would be looking to have his expenses paid at the very least and there aren’t many GP2 or FR3.5 teams offering free drives.

          Nick would also have nothing to gain and everything to lose – if he failed to do well against the younger drivers he would damage his prospects of a full time return to F1.

          1. Indeed, it proved the end of Jim Clark.

      2. jose arellano
        4th February 2010, 20:26

        why not stay as merc test, and also be usf1 or campos race driver….

        1. I like the idea of an Ex F1 drivers championship though.

          Maybe like an over 50’s class just to see them fight it out.

          Put them in GP2 cars, or pay one of the teams loads of money to mass produce there last years chassis. Then have em on as a support race for the championship Grand Prix.

          1. It’s been tried (Grand Prix Masters) and it didn’t work.

          2. yeah but it was bascially mansell running it.

            It was never going to work.

  13. What a waste of talent?? Very cruel thing that he is just a test driver!!

  14. I am disappointed that Heidfeld has not managed to secure a race seat for this year.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the end of his F1 race career, but then I probably wouldn’t have said de la Rosa would get a race seat again.

    I doubt he will get promoted to a race seat with Mercedes unless it was a replacement due to injury, as when Schumacher retires they will try to get Vettel or whoever else is the next big thing at the time.

    Even though there isn’t much testing now as third drivers still have to attend every Grand Prix in case they are needed and have other team commitments such as simulator and PR work, are there many other series they can compete in if they were allowed or does scheduling conflicts pretty much rule it out.

    1. I think if I was Sauber I would have much prefered to have had Heidfeld than de la Rosa.

      On the otherhand Rosa can’t have had a small role in helping McLaren develop several spectacularly good cars.

      If the C29 is any good, an it appears already that Kobayashi might just be the quick one, Heidfeld a pretty genuine racer, has often out performed his cars, with the begining of 08 being the notable exception and his teamates, would be the much more attractive option. Probably wouldn’t cost that much more than Rosa either.

  15. Damn, two of my favourite drivers have gone this year!
    A massive shame, considering he was one of the favourites for both McLaren and Mercedes… You can’t blame him for gambling on the Merc seat, because that chance may possibly not have happened again for him.

    I personally think that Brawn should have signed Heidfeld instead of Rosberg but I guess they thought Nico could grow more as a driver. I don’t think Heidfeld is trying to replace Schumacher when he is done, I think he will be trying to replace Nico. Just like how Liuzzi replaced Fisichella (It was going to happen even if he stayed at Force India which is why he went to Ferrari).

  16. This is sadder than Kimi Raikkonnen leaving the sport.

    Money talks :-|

  17. CounterStrike
    4th February 2010, 11:50

    Shame. What a wasted talent. Surely deserved a spot on the grid. I think he’s gambling on the fact that Schumi’s neck will give up some point into the season.

  18. Cucumber Mike
    4th February 2010, 11:53

    I think this is a fairly sensible move for Quick Nick, given the circumstances. He obviously thought the same as Kubica about Sauber’s chances of being on the grid in 2010, and decided to jump ship. Understandable. Having done so, his choices were, realistically, McLaren, Brawn/Mercedes, Renault or one of the new teams. Having had previous relationships with both McLaren and Mercedes, he may have thought himself to have a good chance of landing a role with one of those teams. Unfortunately for him, Button’s move to McLaren dismissed that hope, and then all the humming and hah-ing over Schumi to Mercedes meant that, by the time he was confirmed, Nick was left with nowhere else to go. The pick of the new teams – Virgin and Lotus – had declared their drivers already, leaving an uncertain future at Renault, where he would once again have been playing second fiddle to Kubica with a budget lessened by Renault’s diminished support, or an even more uncertain drive with USF1 or Campos, either of whom could still end up on the sidelines with no money or, worse, an uncompetitive car.

    Having borne all that in mind, Heidfeld would have taken a look at the remaining options – 3rd driver with either of McLaren or Mercedes – and decided that McLaren have put their faith for the future in Jenson and Lewis. Mercedes have a strong future with Rosberg, but less certainty with Michael. Two scenarios will have appealed to him: The first being that Michael beats all comers this season and retires with nothing left to prove, the second that Schumi’s ageing neck gives in, leaving Nick to step into the breach.

    In my opinion, 3rd driver with a top team is likely to be a stronger role for someone looking to consolidate a career that seems to be floundering than moving to a new team and going down clinging to the wreckage of a budget collapse. Look at the case of de la Rosa – his career looked to be over after so many years at McLaren with no hope of a race, yet now he is back, in his 40’s and potentially with the best team of his career so far. Should Nick not get a drive this year, he will be looking to keep his head down, put in as much solid work for Mercedes as possible, develop his reputation as a tester and look to offer this experience next time round.

    That’s my thought, anyway. It will be sad to see someone with Nick’s obvious talent away from the racing, but I feel he has the drive to come back stronger and I have a sneaking suspicion we could see him in a potential race-winning car again before too long.

  19. Isn’t Heidfeld the second-most experienced F1 driver ever not to win a race? Behind Andrea de Cesaris, of course.

    1. I believe he is – he doesn’t even have the record of most podiums without a win, he has to be content to share it with Stefan Johansson. He really is (was?) F1’s almost man…

    2. Yes, and he’s got the most second-place finishes without a race win, eight, set at Sepang last year:

      Malaysian Grand Prix facts and stats

  20. A good little statistic in the final paragraph there! I was going to ask if Nico’s run of consecutive finishes is still ongoing, but I see it ended in Brazil 2009.

    The other statistic I remember seeing on F1Fanatic last year, was that Nick Heidfeld was (and I’m certain still is now, if we count test drivers) the current F1 driver who has gone the longest since winning a competitive motor race in any meaningful category – no victories in any formula since the middle of 1999!

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