Haug: Heidfeld rated, but no deal.

Mercedes' Norberg Haug has countered suggestions that Nick Heidfeld is being pursued as third driver for 2010.

Mercedes motorsport vice-president Norbert Haug has redressed claims that Nick Heidfeld may be poised to accept the role of reserve driver at the Three Pointed Star's new factory team, despite admitting that remains a fan of his countryman.

Heidfeld was hotly tipped to become a McLaren driver during Mercedes' partnership with the Woking team but, having been backed by the marque in F3000, was overlooked in favour of rookie Sauber team-mate Kimi Raikkonen when the time came to replace Mika Hakkinen. The German was reportedly in talks with Mercedes to partner Nico Rosberg in its 2010 line-up, but was then replaced in its affections by Michael Schumacher, who inked a one-year deal to return to the top flight last month.

Since then, Heidfeld has been linked with several of the remaining vacancies on the grid, notably at Sauber and Renault, but does not appear a favourite for any, leaving him to potentially contemplate the end of his F1 career. And, although the rumours suggest that he would be welcomed at Brackley to play back-up to Schumacher and Rosberg, Haug has been quick to quash the speculation.

"There has only been basic contact with Nick, which is what I have had for several years," Haug told German press agency dpa, "We did talk to Nick about possibilities with Mercedes Grand Prix as well as McLaren-Mercedes."

While Mercedes does not appear to be in a hurry to appoint a reserve - having already confirmed that Rosberg and Schumacher will share the winter testing opportunities between them - Haug has revealed that he continues to 'rate Nick and his abilities'.

"Like every other F1 team, we want a test and reserve driver," he insisted, "but we do not feel under any time pressure to make a decision."

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