Peter Sauber has acknowledged that both Giancarlo Fisichella and Nick Heidfeld were strong candidates for the second F1 2010 seat at his eponymously-named operation that ultimately went the way of Pedro de la Rosa – but he revealed that the former's Ferrari testing duties and the latter's familiarity counted against the pair.
About a week prior to de la Rosa's official confirmation alongside star 2009 debutant Kamui Kobayashi at Hinwil for the forthcoming campaign, it was widely-believed that the Spaniard was in competition with the two former Sauber drivers for the berth – and the Barcelona native's subsequent recruitment was greeted with some cynicism by the media, given that not only has he not actively competed in the top flight since 2006, but even when he did race, he was generally not regarded as highly as either Fisichella or Heidfeld.
Money, the sceptics have argued, must have secured the 38-year-old long-time McLaren-Mercedes test driver and Zurich resident the position – and leading Spanish bank Santander has since admitted that it is financially backing the signing [see separate story – click here
] – but there were other considerations that ultimately played in his favour and played Fisichella and Heidfeld out of the reckoning, Sauber confirms.
“We were not a B-team, but there would have been a certain dependency,” the 66-year-old Swiss businessman told Motorsport Aktuell
, alluding to the pressure being applied on him by engine-supplier Ferrari to employ the Scuderia's
test driver Fisichella, who partnered Felipe Massa at Sauber back in 2004. “If something went wrong with one of the race drivers, Fisichella would have been sitting in the Ferrari – that would have been very bad for us.
“Nick was with us for seven years, [but] I wanted to make a new start, and that would not have worked out with him.”
After being snubbed by Sauber, McLaren and Mercedes Grand Prix, Heidfeld now looks increasingly likely to be appointed as reserve driver by one of the latter two outfits, unless the 32-year-old proves successful in securing the vacant berth at Renault F1 alongside ex-BMW team-mate Robert Kubica.