Albeit two days later than had been expected, Lotus Renault GP has confirmed that Nick Heidfeld will substitute for his former BMW-Sauber team-mate Robert Kubica at the Enstone-based outfit during the F1 2011 World Championship campaign – and the German admits he is 'extremely motivated and can't wait for the season to begin'.
Even before he had sat inside the cockpit of the R31 at Jerez last weekend, Lotus Renault GP team principal Eric Boullier had revealed that Heidfeld was the favourite to replace Kubica until the Pole is well enough to return following the serious hand, arm and leg injuries he suffered in a high-speed rallying accident on the Ronde di Andora in Italy earlier this month.
Although there had been some speculation that Kubica was pushing for Force India F1 refugee Vitantonio Liuzzi to step in for him instead [see separate story – click here
] – and Lotus Renault GP's silence in the wake of Heidfeld's ultra-impressive test outing in Spain only served to add fuel to the rumour-mongers' fire – the team has now made its choice.
“I would have liked to come back to F1 in different circumstances, but I'm proud to have been given this chance,” enthused 'Quick Nick'. “Everything has happened so quickly, but I've been very impressed by what I have seen so far in terms of the facilities and the dedication of the people at Enstone.
“I really enjoyed the test last week at Jerez, and I've already settled in well with the guys at the track. I have a good feeling for the car, which is quite innovative. I'm extremely motivated and can't wait for the season to begin!”
The 33-year-old will partner Vitaly Petrov at Lotus Renault GP this year, and will drive on two of the four days of the upcoming Barcelona test. Boullier is convinced that Heidfeld will repay his faith with interest.
“The team has been through a very difficult couple of weeks and we had to react quickly,” the Frenchman acknowledged. “We gave Nick a chance at Jerez last week, and he really impressed us. He's quick, experienced and very strong technically with his feedback and understanding of the car.
“We always said the priority was to have an experienced driver in the car, and we feel he is the ideal man for the job. We are pleased to welcome Nick to the team, and look forward to a strong start to the season with him and Vitaly in Bahrain.”