Bernie Ecclestone has apparently lent his support to Christian Klien landing a seat in Formula One next season, despite the Austrian having been out of the grand prix limelight for the past three seasons.
While his comments, given to Austrian broadcaster ORF
while skiing in Klien's home region of Vorarlberg, have been treated lightly, Ecclestone claimed that he had always been a supporter of the former Jaguar and Red Bull racer, who has been handling test driver duties for Honda and BMW Sauber since his last grand prix in 2006. BMW Sauber is due to revert to its previous guise under the guidance of Peter Sauber at the start of 2010, and Ecclestone believes that it would be a natural progression for Klien to be elevated to the remaining race seat at Hinwil alongside recently-signed Kamui Kobayashi.
"If Christian gets the Sauber cockpit, it would be great," he told reporters during a break in his vacation at former Olympic downhill champion Egon Zimmermann abode in Lech am Arlberg, "I have always supported Christian, and it would definitely be a good team for him."
Still only 26, Klien has kept his hand in by racing for Peugeot's sports prototype team, but recently confirmed that he was delaying the signing of an extension to that deal in the hope that he could cement a return to F1. While his candidature for the second Sauber seat has been relatively low-key, others - including current BMW Sauber pilot Nick Heidfeld and former Sauber favourite Giancarlo Fisichella - have been listed ahead of him.
Klien's 48 grands prix appearances with Jaguar and Red Bull yielded just 14 points prior to a parting of the ways after the 2006 Italian GP, with a best finish of fifth in the 2005 Chinese GP. He had previously been linked to one of the seats at Lotus - which ultimately went to Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen - but always believed that is best option was to be promoted within the BMW Sauber operation.
“Had BMW Sauber signed in for 2010, I would most likely have been guaranteed a race seat,” he revealed last month, “I was approached by several teams concerning a race drive during the season. The new teams are interested in drivers with F1 experience to speed up the development of their car. In the meantime, I have had a close look at everyone's progress and I have also checked with their engine partner Cosworth. The first season is going to be very tough for the new teams, but some definitely have the potential to go far in F1."