Heidfeld gets second chance

Heidfeld has boosted his chances of a Williams race drive in 2005 after completing a successful test at Jerez. But poor weather conditions, which meant he was unable to set comparable times with the team's test driver Antonio Pizzonia, have prompted Williams into giving the German a second chance to prove himself at Jerez next week

Heidfeld gets second chance

A Williams spokeman confirmed Friday morning that the German will definitely run at Jerez again next week (December 7). "We will be taking three cars for Mark Webber, Antonio Pizzonia and Nick Heidfeld," he said.

Heidfeld was scheduled to test for Williams in the second week of December, but he was bumped forward after BAR blocked Anthony Davidson from driving. Despite two full day's running on Wednesday and Thursday, Heidfeld never got to run in fully dry conditions, prompting Williams technical director Sam Michael to suggest that the run-out was "inconclusive".

"I am very impressed with his [Heidfeld's] feedback and by his very collected behaviour," said Michael. "But because of the weather the results are not conclusive.

"On both days he ran the track conditions were constantly changing, from wet to dry, to wet again and then to drying conditions, and he didn't put one wheel wrong. He made no mistakes, was fast in every kind of condition, but, in the end he didn't have the opportunity to drive the car in full dry weather, so I think we'll give him another run next week and, hopefully, the weather will be on our side."

Heidfeld and Antonio Pizzonia (still the favourite for the second Williams seat alongside Mark Webber) were put in identical interim FW26 chassis for the test. The pair ran elements of the team's 2005 rear-end and the German emerged quicker of the two on Thursday.

"We let Nick do mostly long runs and it was good," said Michael. "He is in the interim car with next year's rear-end and the whole point is to build on reliability. It's a shame we couldn't see how quick he can be in the dry.

"It wouldn't be fair to make an assessment on a driver based on two days of bad weather testing and it would be fair for him and for us. We've always known he's quick in the wet - he's always been quick in the wet, anyway, but we want to have him and Pizzonia driving the car in the same specification, in the dry, going for short and long runs, so that we can make a meaningful comparison between the two of them."

BMW is believed to be keen to see the German-speaking Heidfeld in the second seat in 2005, although sources within the team have previously suggested that the drive was Pizzonia's to lose.

Williams, which packed up early from the test so that its drivers and key staff could attend the annual BMW party in Austria. For his part the German driver was happy with his performance in his first test for Williams.

"When a car is this good it's always easy to set quick times from the first few runs, because the limit is so high you can be close to the limit, without taking any risks and you still go pretty fast," Heidfeld said after the test. "I think I've done a good job so far, but it would have been nice to have the possibility to run with full dry conditions.

"Thursday was even worst than Wednesday, from that point of view, but even in the changing conditions it was possible for us to work and I think the team liked the work I've done. I did my best not to let other things outside the cockpit distract me, and I did my best to concentrate on what I had to do in the car."

Even if the German driver succeeds in impressing Williams next week, it is still entirely possible that he will have to look elsewhere for a race drive in 2005 and Heidfeld's manager Werner Heinz admitted there were other possibilities, including a chance to be number one at Red Bull Racing. "At the moment Nick has targeted the second seat at Williams, because that's still available," he said. "If he gets it that's great; if not, we'll have to see what's best for his career, to be test driver for a team like Williams or to be number one in a team like Red Bull.

"I think Red Bull has the potential to do well and it wouldn't be the repetition of his season with Jordan. But, as I said before, the priority is to try and get the race seat with Williams. Only after that is sorted out we'll look at other possibilities, if necessary."

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