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F1 Advent Calendar 2010 (Day 20) - Musical chairs // Nick Heidfeld bounces in and off the Formula One grid

Published by Christine

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This is the F1 Advent Calendar 2010, an extended mini series from Sidepodcast, recapping all the key events from this season in Formula One. We've been concentrating so hard on Hungary, that it's time to jump forward a little to Singapore - this is Day 20, Musical chairs.

Nick Heidfeld started the 2010 season as test driver for Mercedes GP. The all-German team complimented their driver line-up with the strong and consistent 33 year old as reserve. He had been in the running for a race seat with the team, but they chose the Schumacher route instead. He'd also been considered for the seat at Sauber - where he had previously been in the BMW incarnation - but they went for Kobayashi. Eventually, for Heidfeld, it was a third driver role or nothing.

The reserve driver role is not a pleasant one in F1 at the moment. If you are lucky, you get a chance to drive the car in Free Practice on Friday - as seen by Jérôme D'Ambrosio at Virgin Racing, Fairuz Fauzy at Lotus, and Paul di Resta at Force India. Di Resta's case is a particularly interesting one as he followed the team to every single Grand Prix, whilst still competing in the DTM series. He learnt the tracks, experienced how the team works over a weekend, and got used to the F1 lifestyle. For a rookie driver, being a reserve is an excellent opportunity. For Heidfeld, it is probably not so useful.

With Bridgestone making a graceful exit at the end of 2010, Pirelli needed someone to test their new tyres as they got up to speed for their F1 comeback. Mercedes released Heidfeld from his contract which freed him up to become the Pirelli tyre tester. He was using an old Toyota chassis - the TF109 - and he participated in several tests on the new rubber.

Ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix, it was confirmed that Heidfeld would be back in the paddock, and back at Sauber - replacing the outgoing Pedro de la Rosa. Peter Sauber said: "It was a hard decision for me to make as a team principal and I want to thank Pedro for his professionalism. By signing Nick we have a driver we know extremely well who will help us to further judge the comparative potential of our car." Pedro admitted he was surprised by the decision but bore no ill will to his former employers. In a case of simply swapping seats, he went on to test for Pirelli, alongside former-Renault driver Romain Grosjean.

Meanwhile, Heidfeld was excited to be back on the grid. He qualified 15th at Singapore, whilst pole position went to Alonso. Ferrari were seeing a bit of a resurgance of form, and Alonso continued on to win the race, joined on the podium by both Red Bull drivers.

Heidfeld did not have such good fortune, he found himself caught up in a battle with Schumacher that ended in them both colliding. Heidfeld finished in the barriers and out of the race, whilst Schumacher did make it back to the pitlane, but could only manage 13th, crossing the line one lap down. From a poor start, Heidfeld's performance improved. In Japan and Korea, he finished 8th and 9th respectively, picking up a couple of points.

Brazil was not so kind to the German, he qualified 16th and finished 17th, but by Abu Dhabi he was back up to 11th. Sauber have signed up Sergio Pérez to race alongside Kobayashi for 2011, which leaves Heidfeld without a seat once more.

That's all for this episode of the F1 Advent Calendar 2010 - thank you for listening. Don't forget you can share your thoughts on Nick Heidfeld, or on any of the topics we've covered so far, by visiting the comments at sidepodcast.com. I will be back tomorrow with Day 21.

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