As expected, ousted Sauber driver Pedro de la Rosa has been confirmed as Nick Heidfeld's replacement at Pirelli, taking over official test and development duties as the Italian firm gears up for its return to F1 next season.

Although sources at Pirelli confirmed that de la Rosa would be called upon to give his opinion of the work done so far, motorsport director Paul Hembery officially revealed that the Spaniard would now spearhead the programme as the clock ticks down towards a scheduled first group test in Abu Dhabi immediately after the final race of 2010. de la Rosa was confirmed in his new role during a press conference held to mark 50 years of Pirelli's presence in Turkey, where all the company's F1, GP2 and GP3 tyres for next year will be produced.

With Heidfeld moving in the opposite direction to team up with Kamui Kobayashi at Sauber for the final five races of the season, erstwhile Renault F1 pilot Romain Grosjean was called in to sample the development tyres at Monza last week. The Frenchman will continue to test for Pirelli alongside de la Rosa, but Hembery admitted that having access to someone with the Spaniard's experience was invaluable for the programme.

"Romain jumped in to do some durability testing and did an excellent job," he reported, having personally overseen the Monza test, "The objective of this test was to confirm the structural specification of the tyres we will use for the first time at the test in Abu Dhabi, and we now move on to working on our rain tyres and compound definition.

"Moving forwards, we will also be joined by Pedro, who has the benefit of having the most recent F1 experience and is a renowned tester. So far, everything has gone according to plan and we're pleased to report that we are only about a second per lap off the times of our predecessors, which is a great achievement."

Despite the optimism emanating from Pirelli, 39-year old de la Rosa admits that he expects a busy work schedule in order for the manufacturer to be ready for both its November debut at Yas Marina and, beyond that, for its race return at next season's Bahrain Grand Prix.

"I'm really pleased to be joining Pirelli, as tyre testing is something that I have always enjoyed," the former McLaren test driver commented, "It is a very big challenge, especially in F1. The information you can get from telemetry and sensors is valuable, but nothing replaces the individual feeling of a driver with new tyres, so I hope I can be a real asset to Pirelli.

"There's not a lot of time left and a huge amount of work to do, but I'm very much looking forward to it and I am sure that our collaboration will be a success. A lot of useful work has been done already and now we have the opportunity of taking it forward."

Pirelli's next test is expected to take place in Spain early next month, with de la Rosa getting behind the wheel of the company's Toyota TF109 for the first time.

Heidfeld, meanwhile, insists that he feels sorry for curtailing de la Rosa's racing comeback after just 14 races, but claims that the Spaniard would understand that the offer of a seat ahead of 2011 was too good to turn down.

"I'm friends with Pedro," the 33-year old German told Swiss newspaper Blick., "We meet from time to time, we live close to each other, and I have spoken with him. He understands my situation. He knows I had to take the chance and couldn't say 'Pedro is a nice guy, so I'll go without'."

Ironically, despite a solid qualifying performance, Heidfeld's return to Sauber yielded no more points than the majority of de la Rosa's previous outings, after he was sideswiped into retirement by fellow countryman Michael Schumacher.

"Of course, I would have hoped for a better result and wanted to finish the race," he sighed, "In my view, Michael was braking a bit too late and knocked me out of the way.

"My race was compromised soon after the start as Vitantonio Liuzzi wanted to pass me from a long way off on the outside in corner four. Then I believe he braked early and, unfortunately, I crashed into him. The car wasn't easy to drive with the missing rear wing endplate and the set-up had not been ideal because you are not allowed to change anything after qualifying. However, having said that, the lap times were not too bad for a while, and I'm now looking forward to my favourite circuit at Suzuka."