Whilst Nick Heidfeld has been handed a potential lifeline in terms of resurrecting his stalled F1 career next season through his new Pirelli tyre-testing role, it seems the experienced German might not have been the Italian company's first choice – with claims that former world champion Kimi Raikkonen's name was originally at the top of the list.
It was confirmed this week by Mercedes Grand Prix that the Brackley-based outfit has released Heidfeld to focus on his new task [see separate story – click here
], with the hope being that the unique knowledge he will accrue from testing the 2011-spec tyre compounds will make the 33-year-old an attractive proposition to a number of teams next season, after a year spent away from the grand prix starting grid.
Following a series of outings at Mugello, Jerez, Monza and Paul Ricard, Pirelli will subsequently put its compounds through their paces in Abu Dhabi in the immediate wake of the final race of the season in November.
However, according to Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat
, it was in fact World Rally Championship-convert Raikkonen who was approached first, only for the 18-time grand prix-winner to turn the offer down to instead give his full concentration to the remainder of his debut WRC campaign.
The 30-year-old's manager Steve Robertson had acknowledged back in June that 'if Pirelli approach us, of course we'll talk about it', adding that everything would depend upon whether 'Kimi is interested by this type of challenge' and how it would fit in alongside his rallying programme.
Citroën is known to be keen to retain Raikkonen's services into a second season, whilst there have also been whispers of forays into IndyCar and the Le Mans 24 Hours, as well as the continually unanswered question of whether F1 is now a closed book for the Espoo native, or merely unfinished business...