Race for Williams Seat Heats Up as Heidfeld Takes Lead

Williams hopeful Nick Heidfeld was fastest at the start of what could be a decisive five-day test programme with the Formula One team, as he and Brazilian driver Antonio Pizzonia battle for the last remaining competitive drive in the 2005 F1 season.

Race for Williams Seat Heats Up as Heidfeld Takes Lead

Williams hopeful Nick Heidfeld was fastest at the start of what could be a decisive five-day test programme with the Formula One team, as he and Brazilian driver Antonio Pizzonia battle for the last remaining competitive drive in the 2005 F1 season.

The 27-year-old German, who impressed the BMW-powered team so much in initial tests late last year that they delayed a decision on their second driver until this month, completed 81 laps at Jerez today, with a best time of 1:17.457. Mark Webber, also in a Williams, was second quickest with 1:17.593.

Up to three head-to-head test sessions between Pizzonia and Heidfeld are scheduled for Jerez to help the team make a decision before they launch their 2005 car at Valencia on January 31.

"Fighting for the second seat is the biggest chance I have ever had in my career," said Heidfeld, a former McLaren test driver who has raced for Prost, Sauber and Jordan. "Whether at a test or in the factory, being with the BMW Williams team is a complete change to what I'm used to."

Pizzonia, the official test driver who raced for Jaguar in 2003 before being cast aside, was the favourite for the Williams drive until Heidfeld showed his pace.

"For sure, I want to race in 2005," said the Brazilian. "The evaluation at the tests is fine, tough competition is a natural part of Formula One.

"This month is going to be the most important of my career. If I don't get the second race seat, I will give the team my full support as a test driver, in order to help them win races again," added the 24-year-old.

Williams, nine times Constructors Champions and winners of 113 races - but without a title since 1997, will have an all-new line-up this year after the departure of Germany's Ralf Schumacher and Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya.

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