Sauber announced today that they would be replacing driver Pedro de la Rosa with Nick Heidfeld. It had been widely rumoured around the F1 paddock that de la Rosa’s place in the Sauber team was under threat, given that he had failed to keep pace with his younger teammate, Kamui Kobayashi, who has outscored de la Rosa by 21 points to six this year.
The Sauber team have not had the best of seasons so far; they have tended to lag behind the other midfield teams such as Renault and Williams, and they are currently sitting in eighth place in the constructors’ table. Therefore it is hardly surprising that team owner Peter Sauber felt that it was time for a change.
Although he is younger than de la Rosa, Heidfeld actually has more race experience, having started over 150 races. Although Heidfeld has never won an F1 race, he has finished second in a Grand Prix eight times. He has raced for Sauber before between 2001 and 2003, and also when the team was called BMW Sauber between 2006 and 2009.
Heidfeld began this season as a test driver for Mercedes GP and then left that post to test drive for the tire manufacturer Pirelli, who will become the sole tire supplier for F1 in the 2011 season, replacing Bridgestone.
De la Rosa has said that he was "surprised by the team’s decision" and that he intends "to be in Formula 1 in 2011." However finding a race seat in 2011 will not be easy for the Spaniard because, with the exception of Lotus, those teams lower down the grid appear to be favouring younger drivers. It may be that de la Rosa will take up a testing role with one of the teams, such as he has done with McLaren in the past.