Heidfeld named as second WilliamsF1 driver (Updated)

31/01/2005
NEWS STORY

After weeks of waiting, WilliamsF1 has named 27-year-old Nick Heidfeld as its second driver.

The German, who has contested 84 Grands Prix with Prost, Sauber and Jordan, was told of the team's decision just minutes before today's launch of the team's 2005 contender, the FW27.

Heidfeld, who won the German F3 Championship in 1997 and subsequently won the International F3000 Championship in 1999, was in contention for the seat with Antonio Pizzonia, having taken part in a number of shoot-outs over the course of the winter.

In 2002, Jenson Button was involved in a similar shootout with Bruno Junqueira, and though the Brazilian out-paced the Briton in most tests, it was the Englishman that got the drive.

Button gave a number of strong performances during 2000 before making way for Juan Pablo Montoya. In 2004, following a couple of seasons with Renault and BAR, the youngster was involved in a messy tog-of-war between WilliamsF1 and BAR, the Contract Recognition Board deciding in favour of the Brackley outfit.

Neither Heidfeld nor Pizzonia were made aware of the team's decision until shortly before today's launch, with some reports suggesting that Frank Williams only made his final choice just moments earlier.

Due to the fact that the decision was going to be a 'last minute' thing, the team prepared press packs and various other publicity for both scenarios, Webber/Heidfeld and Webber/Pizzonia

"It was a very difficult choice, made at the very last minute", admitted Frank Williams, following today's announcement. "It was a very close call."

A clearly delighted Heidfeld, said: "It's fantastic to finally have the chance of being part of a World Championship team. It's definitely the big step I hoped for in the last couple of years.

"I really wanted this job," he added. Driving for the BMW WilliamsF1 Team is the greatest opportunity of my career. I will do everything I can to show that I deserve this place and I'm counting the days to the first Grand Prix.

"'Racing' against Antonio was a lot of fun," he added, referring to the series of shoot-out over the winter. "He's a great teammate. I respect him and I would also have taken on the job of test driver."

"There was little to choose between the two of them," added Williams, "and we were in the fortunate position to be able to choose between two drivers who would be a credit to any Formula One team.

"Ultimately, however, it is Nick who has got our vote, but I am delighted that we have strength in depth with Antonio taking up the position of official test and reserve driver."

"All three drivers were very strong in the most recent tests," added BMW Motorsport director, Mario Theissen, "not only behind the wheel but also when working together with the engineers. The new team has grown together quickly and harmoniously. I'm very pleased for Nick. He earned the seat with his strong performance. Antonio knows that, as a test driver, he is also taking on a key role in the team."

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Published: 31/01/2005
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