Having endured a comparatively poor campaign in the role of defending double F1 World Champions, Mercedes Grand Prix could be set to receive another blow, with speculation that the Stuttgart manufacturer will be forced to release experienced test and reserve driver Nick Heidfeld due to the latter's new permanent tyre-testing role with Pirelli.

Reports in Germany claim the Brackley-based outfit has had to cease development of its underperforming MGP W01 contender due to budgetary issues, with all attentions now being paid to its 2011 successor, suggesting that rather than making progress in its bid to stave off the threat of Renault for fourth spot in the constructors' standings, Mercedes might in fact only go backwards for the remainder of this season.

Should Heidfeld indeed depart the fray, it would only exacerbate the difficulty of the team's task, and the 33-year-old is expected to begin his new role with Pirelli - which just under two months ago saw off French rival Michelin to earn the contract to be F1's sole tyre-supplier from 2011 for the first time in two decades - today (Monday), conducting a three-day test aboard a 2009-spec Toyota TF109 at Mugello in Italy.

Further testing has reportedly been pencilled in for Jerez, Monza and Paul Ricard and then back again to Mugello.

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