Nick Heidfeld has said that he hopes BMW Sauber's decision to continue pairing him with Robert Kubica for 2009 will lead to bigger and better things for the team.

While naturally harbouring world championship ambitions of his own, Heidfeld says that he is happy to be a part of the Hinwil/Munich team's fourth season in Formula One, knowing that it is now reaching its own self-established stage of challenging the biggest names in the sport for overall honours. The German was confirmed alongside Kubica for a third full season on Monday, with BMW Sauber also naming Christian Klien as test and reserve driver for a second year.

"I'm very pleased about this announcement and about the confidence that the team have shown in me," Heidfeld commented, "I've always said that I was happy to stay with BMW Sauber because we've managed to achieve what we set out to do at this stage, and I really hope that we will be battling it out for the title itself next year."

Despite racking up four second-place finishes this season, however, Heidfeld's position in the team had not been guaranteed and, even as recently as the Singapore Grand Prix, he was being listed as uncertain to return for 2009, with Fernando Alonso and GP2 frontrunner Bruno Senna amongst those being tipped to partner Kubica in 2009

BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen insisted that the team was in no rush to name its line-up, suggesting that it was talking to alternatives amid concerns over Heidfeld's fluctuating form, especially in qualifying. The 31-year old German has struggled to get the F1.08 handling to his liking over a single lap, and has been a victim of F1's knock-out qualifying system on more than one occasion in 2008.

Despite the setbacks, however, the veteran has been in the points ten times in 15 races, and has produced some of the best race performances of the season, passing cars on track to make up places lost on Saturday.

"There have been times this season when neither I nor the team could honestly say that we were satisfied with the way things were going, but we have always pulled together and come through," he noted.

Indeed, while Kubica's victory in the Canadian Grand Prix - and subsequent claims that the team had not backed that up with a concerted title push - has dominated BMW Sauber headlines this season, Heidfeld has quietly gone about his business and, since the race in Montreal - where he finished second to his team-mate - has bagged the third-largest points haul of anyone.

In addition to his four second places, he currently ranks second in the number of fastest laps and has impressed observers with his racecraft, including spectacular 'double passes' at both Sepang and Silverstone.

"I am delighted that Nick will retain his seat with the BMW Sauber F1 team in 2009," manager Andre Theuerzeit added, "Nick has made a major and effective contribution to improving the team's performance over the past few years and, in the coming season, we intend to go one stage further towards achieving the ambitious targets we have set ourselves. The fact that Nick and BMW together are a 'well-oiled' and successful team has certainly been a major plus.

"This season has by no means been an easy one for Nick, and we have come in for some criticism at times. But, following the Canadian GP, Nick got down to some intensive work with the team to iron out the problems and his performance then improved. He engaged in some serious analysis and fought his way back into contention in a really impressive way.

"I am convinced that, as the season has progressed, Nick has got even stronger and the understanding he has with his engineers has become even deeper. Although it's too early to speculate about the impact any changes in the regulations may have, I think these are more likely to work to Nick's advantage.

"Next season, we can certainly expect great things from Nick and the BMW Sauber F1 team. And, as for the last three races of this season, I'm convinced that Nick will be in the thick of the action and add to his points haul."

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