Robert Kubica has said that he is happy to be lining up alongside Nick Heidfeld for a third season, following BMW Sauber's announcement that it is to retain an unchanged pairing for the 2009 Formula One campaign.

Although one, or both, of the drivers had been rumoured to be leaving or facing the axe in recent weeks, the Hinwil/Munich team closed what had appeared to be an open door to Fernando Alonso on Monday by confirming Kubica and Heidfeld for next year, with Christian Klien returning as test and reserve driver for a second season. The Pole, however, admitted that the timing of the decision had come as something of a surprise to him, after BMW Sauber insisted that it was in no rush to reveal its hand.

"I think, when you are saying it was not news for me, you are wrong," he claimed, "I knew it not a long time ago, and the team communicated last Monday that we would stay with Nick as team-mates for next year."

There has generally been harmony between the two drivers since Kubica controversially replaced Jacques Villleneuve in 2006, and the Pole admitted that it was probably best for BMW Sauber's stated championship-chasing ambitions that the partnership stays together in a season where the F1 rulebook changes dramatically.

"I am as always looking for a new challenge, and it's a new year, [with] new regulations and a new car, but the same team, so we will see," he noted, "I think I have quite a lot of experience working with Nick, and I think we are doing a good job. Of course, a new team-mate will give you some new information, and maybe there is new stuff you can learn from it, but I think Nick is doing a good job, so there is no point from my side not to be happy that he is again with me and we are racing together.

"I think we are in a good position for next year, we know each other pretty well and we know the team, so the continuity is very important. Teamwork, that's what we are trying to do."

Although Kubica was always believed to have the stronger hold on a seat at Hinwil next season, given his superior pace in the F1.08 - which Heidfeld found difficult to get the best out of, especially in qualifying - the Pole's dissatisfaction was widely reported at Monza, where he claimed that the team's focus had moved away from the 2008 title, even though he felt he was still in contention for the drivers' crown.

Even this weekend, heading to the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji, Kubica remains an outsider for the title, but even he now admits that it is going to be tough to deny either Lewis Hamilton or Felipe Massa.

"I think, mathematically, that I am still there, as a couple more drivers are as well, but it is quite hard to be 20 points behind," he sighed, "There are two cars in front of me, two drivers which, in normal conditions, are quicker and in better shape.

"Also, if you compare the first half of the season, where I was closing the gap until after Canada, where I was leading the championship, now the situation is completely the opposite. I am losing the gap to the leader."

Despite the two-win deficit, however, Kubica insists that he will not give up until it is mathematically impossible for him to lift the crown.

"For sure, it will be difficult but, while there is a chance I will try my best as usual," he maintained, "I will try to score as many points as possible and try to be more lucky too as, lately, luck is not really there for me.

"Last year here, I was doing a pretty good race, but I got a drive-thru' penalty for contact with Lewis and lost quite a lot of places and finished quite far down. We will see [what happens this year]. I think, for the race, I think a wet race would be quite a big lottery and, again, I think Toro Rosso and Red Bull Racing may be strong, as they were last year, so we will see. It looks like the weather forecast is better this year...."