Heidfeld to BMW Sauber

UPDATE #4 This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact,' with today's announcement. 09/15/05 Reports out of Salzburg say that Nick Heidfeld signed with Sauber BMW for $10 million a year. 09/12/05 Nick Heidfeld's manager has confirmed that the German will not contest the Brazilian grand prix in two weeks. Werner Heinz said Williams' German pilot – already out of action with headaches and neck problems – was bicycle training in Switzerland when he was struck by a motorcycle.

The timing of the subsequent injury, certainly, is coincidental, amid existing speculation that 'Quick Nick' has signed a 2007-2008 deal to switch to BMW. Williams' 2006 option on the Moenchengladbach-born driver expires on Thursday, the day he was scheduled to return to the cockpit for a Silverstone test. ''Unfortunately, Nick's injuries mean he can not participate in the next formula one race,'' Heinz revealed.

Heidfeld is apparently suffering from a cracked shoulder bone, several dislocated fingers and grazes. At present, the conspiracy theorists – who earlier enjoyed Juan Pablo Montoya's similarly iffy 'tennis' story – are having a field day with the news. One hypothesis is that Heidfeld's alleged 'injuries' may convince Sir Frank Williams to release the hapless German racer to Sauber-bound BMW an early as 2006.

Another theory is that the story is a cover for Williams' plans to further test potential candidates for a 2006 seat, in the event that Jenson Button stays at BAR. Antonio Pizzonia has had a two-race turn, and 20-year-old Nico Rosberg's name is now attached to the story, even though the German is in the running for the GP2 title.

Asked if any of the conspiracy theorists were right, technical director Sam Michael slammed: ''Absolutely not.''

09/11/05 As the Formula 1 teams were packing up at Spa on Sunday afternoon word came from Switzerland that Nick Heidfeld has injured his shoulder while riding a mountain bike in the town of Stafa in Switzerland. It seems that Nick was in collision with a motorcycle. According to a statement from Heidfeld's management Nick may not be fit to race in the weeks ahead, having torn the ligaments of his shoulder and suffered an injuries to his finger and cuts and grazes.

The timing of the whole incident is most bizarre given what is happening in the contractual negotiations between Williams and Heidfeld. There were rumors during the weekend that suggested that the team might be thinking of dropping Nick for the rest of the year because of his decision (yet to be made public) that he has signed for BMW for 2007 and 2008. This being the case, it is logical for Heidfeld to try to get out of his Williams arrangements for 2006 and then sign a three-year deal with BMW. The crux on the problem is the option date which is on September 15. If Williams takes up the option, Heidfeld's BMW future is in difficulties but at the same time the team is not quite sure whether or not it needs Heidfeld next year and that will not be known until there is resolution of the Jenson Button problem.

And into the middle of all this comes a second medical incident which looks like keeping Nick out of the car in Brazil! Grandprix.com

09/10/05 In all probability, Williams' Nick Heidfeld will return to the cockpit of his FW27 in Brazil. The German, reportedly suffering from concussion and damaged neck muscles after a 150mph Monza test shunt, is – at Spa Francorchamps – sitting out a second grand prix.

Speculation, though, insisted that 28-year-old 'Quick Nick' – replaced by Antonio Pizzonia – is actually fully recovered, giving rise to gossip that his absence is perhaps more to do with his link to the new BMW works team.

Heidfeld has reportedly signed a 2007-2008 BMW deal, but Sir Frank Williams – whose team will be powered by Cosworth next year – is understood to have until next Thursday to exercise an option on the highly rated star.

The outcome will depend much on the ongoing 'Buttongate II' saga. Williams' technical director Sam Michael said in Belgium: ''(Heidfeld) should be fine (for Brazil). ''If he's ok next week, we'll run him for a day at Silverstone (before the race).''

Michael reckons the Grove based team brought Heidfeld 'back from the grave' after spending last year in a Jordan. ''He's a good little driver,'' the Australian admitted.

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