Nick Heidfeld may have secured a return to the F1 grid for the final five races of the 2010 season, but admits that he has nothing confirmed for next year, despite talks with various parties.

The German replaces the lacklustre Pedro de la Rosa at BMW Sauber from this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix but, despite many believing that the short-term deal is merely a precursor to a full-time ride with the Swiss team next season, Heidfeld insists that his position in the top flight is far from secure.

The 33-year old, who acted a reserve driver for the Mercedes team until mid-season before switching to become chief development pilot for incoming tyre supplier Pirelli, concedes that his knowledge - albeit brief - of the new rubber could make him an attractive prospect, but says that there is a long way to go before he can look forward to 2011.

"It should be a help, having driven for Pirelli," he acknowledged during the first press conference of the Singapore weekend, "Some people would argue that it would have been better to stay testing, and have even more of an advantage for next year, but, when I had the chance to sign for Sauber for this year, I definitely wanted to come back.

"I want to race, [and] I believe I can do a good job. I've signed only for this season, the situation for next year is completely open with Sauber, but also with other teams with which I have already been in talks over the last couple of weeks.

Heidfeld returns to Sauber after a brief hiatus brought on by BMW's withdrawal and his interest in a possible Mercedes race deal, but has a long history with the Swiss team, having driven there early in his F1 career and then returned with BMW in 2006. He admits that he is grateful to team boss Peter Sauber for giving him the chance to re-establish his reputation over the 'flyaway' events that close out 2010 - particularly beginning at a circuit that he describes as one of his favourites - but he insists that he never considered racing in F1 a closed book.

"No, I never thought it was over," he claimed, "Of course, you're never one hundred per cent sure but, as I said, we've always been in contact with teams and there was - and is - interest from different teams, so I always believed that I would be back.

"It was not an easy season for me being a third driver, but when the opportunity came along to drive for Pirelli that was an important step for me to get back into the car, to get driving and possibly it could give me an advantage for next year - but when I had the chance to drive for Sauber from Singapore onwards, obviously I had to grab that chance.

"I have tried to stay fit for the whole season. I have not been in the car a lot, but I have a simulator at home which I worked in. At least I was lucky enough to do quite a lot of miles with the Toyota car, testing for Pirelli, and that should help.

"I want to get the most out of the car [in Singapore], but especially for the first weekend it is going to be important to get into a rhythm with the car and with the tyres as I have not driven this car one kilometre yet. I don't know this year's tyres as they have changed from last year, so it's going to be quite important to just learn things quickly."

With de la Rosa replacing Heidfeld - and joining former Renault F1 pilot Romain Grosjean - in Pirelli's development line-up, the German knows that there will be further progress made with next year's tyres, but accepts that his experience with the Italian manufacturer could be the key to finding a role in the top flight next season.

"It was very interesting, obviously, starting to test with Pirelli and helping them develop the tyres," he admitted, "First of all, I think they've done a very good job until now because there wasn't much time for them after they learned that they would supply tyres for next season.

"At the beginning, we mainly focused on working on constructions. We briefly started with compounds, made some good and major steps forward and I believe it will be a good tyre that we will see next year, but there are still a couple of tests to come and it's difficult to know exactly what's going to happen during those tests. So far, they have been reliable, no technical problems whatsoever. The grip level is within the range, so it looks positive for now."



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