BMW-Sauber has upped the pressure on the under-fire Nick Heidfeld, as one of the Munich and Hinwil-based outfit's rival Formula 1 teams insisted there would be no room at the inn should the experienced German be ditched by his current employer at the end of the 2008 campaign.
Heidfeld has endured a trying season in the top flight, struggling to get to grips with Bridgestone's current tyres in qualifying, leaving him regularly on the back foot come the races and seeing him notch up just 41 points compared to team-mate Robert Kubica's 55.
Those woes were compounded by a distinctly lacklustre performance last time out in the European Grand Prix in Valencia, in which the 31-year-old took the chequered flag a lowly ninth, more than ten seconds shy of the points-scoring positions and a full three-quarters of a minute adrift of Kubica – who finished up on the rostrum.
Afterwards Heidfeld described the showing as 'one of the worst races ever' [see separate story – click here
] – and BMW Motorsport Director Dr Mario Theissen seemed to agree.
“When we are in a position to do so, we need to be scoring with both cars,” the 56-year-old told broadcaster RTL
, as other German media suggest that Heidfeld's managers Andre Theuerzeit and Werner Heinz are keeping their options open should a back-up plan prove necessary.
The former was allegedly spotted on several occasions in the Red Bull motor home in Valencia, possibly scouring out the possibility of a move to the energy drinks-backed concern's junior squad Scuderia Toro Rosso for next year.
With Heidfeld believed to already have a firm multi-million dollar contract in place at BMW for 2009, however, buying him out could prove to be an expensive option for the team, and Honda certainly seems uninterested in taking him on.
When asked about the chances of the man from Mönchengladbach joining the Brackley-based outfit, CEO Nick Fry told German newspaper AZ
: “Heidfeld? No.”