Nick Heidfeld has admitted that he is desperate to remain a part of the Formula One firmament, even if it means taking a pay cut to drive in 2004.

Although he is not one of the best paid drivers on the grid, the young German admits that, having been released by Sauber after three seasons, his options are limited to either Jaguar or Jordan, both of which require him to bring a substantial sponsorship injection. Keen not to be seen as a 'pay driver', Heidfeld says that he will do whatever it takes to get an opportunity to show what he can do.

"He who pays once, pays always," the former F3000 champion told German newspaper Die Bild, "I have earned well over the last few seasons, but that will probably change because of the bad economic situation. But, to be honest, the money is not what I am concerned with. I simply want to remain in Formula One. I want to show what I can do."

Once a prot?g? of McLaren engine partner Mercedes, Heidfeld has seen his ties with the German giant severed as other promising youngsters - notably former Sauber team-mate Kimi Raikkonen - have usurped him. Asked why his star had faded in such a manner, Heidfeld admitted that perhaps he had not done all he could to impress, both on and off the track.

"I made a few mistakes," he said, "Perhaps I grasped too late that being in Formula One does not only rely on what you do on the track. Perhaps I could have sold myself better, behaved differently and spoken out more. But I have been at Sauber for three years and the situation was always changing - at times my outlook was good. I am still only 26, and I still consider myself to be a good driver. I haven't suddenly lost my ability to drive."

Although he admits that his talent would probably enable him to land a drive in a number of other series, Heidfeld is adamant that he only has eyes for F1.

"So far, it has not come to [having to look elsewhere]," he said, "Next to F1, there are a couple of series where I would find it relatively easy to get a place - Champ Cars or the DTM for example - but that is not my ambition. I am only 26, and I do not see myself in either of those series yet."

Asked where exactly he did see himself in 2004, Heidfeld admitted that he would still be following the F1 circus.

"I will be in Melbourne, Malaysia, Bahrain....," he said, "I want to show everyone that I am still around..."