Germany's Nick Heidfeld will replace Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa and return to Sauber for the remaining five races of the season, the Formula One team said on Tuesday.
Heidfeld, 33, was the Mercedes reserve driver this season until taking on the role of tester for next year's sole tyre provider Pirelli.
The experienced and highly regarded German has spent much of his career with Swiss-based Sauber, racing for them from 2001-03 and from 2006 until BMW quit the sport at the end of last season. De la Rosa, 39, was making a comeback after years as McLaren reserve and after three seasons out. The Spaniard had struggled to be competitive, with Japanese rookie Kamui Kobayashi scoring 21 of the Ferrari-powered team's 27 points so far.
“It was a hard decision for me to make as a team principal and I want to thank Pedro for his professionalism,” said Peter Sauber in a statement.
“By signing Nick we have a driver we know extremely well who will help us to further judge the comparative potential of our car.”
De la Rosa, whose last full season was with Jaguar in 2002, did not hide his disappointment at being dropped despite finishing 14th in Sunday's Italian Grand Prix.
“I am surprised by the team's decision but I respect it and would like to wish everyone good luck for the remainder of the season. I still intend to be in Formula One for 2011,” he said in the team statement.
Heidfeld, who has never won a race in 167 starts but has finished second eight times, was delighted to get back in the cockpit and said he felt like he was coming home.
“I'm looking forward like crazy to having the opportunity to go racing again in a good car in F1 from the Singapore GP onwards,” he said. “I'm even more motivated than ever. Without doubt I will be feeling at home straight away and this should help me to familiarise myself as soon as possible with the car.”
kimi approached us, says Renault boss
Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen has put himself back in the frame for a F1 return with Renault, according to team boss Eric Boullier. “He is on the radar because he contacted us,” the autosport.com website quoted the Frenchman as saying after the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.Raikkonen won the 2007 title with Ferrari but the Finn has spent the last year in the world rally championship after being replaced by Spaniard Fernando Alonso at the Italian team.
Recent reports have suggested he would stay in rallying with Citroen. “You never know but I will probably never return to Formula One,” French newspaper L'Equipe quoted the 30-year-old as saying. Renault have yet to announce their second driver for 2011.