Motor Racing: Heidfeld to partner Webber at Williams

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NICK HEIDFELD will partner Mark Webber at Williams-BMW this season. The Formula One team yesterday chose the German in preference to the Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia, who will work as official test and reserve driver.

The 27-year-old from Monchengladbach was told of the decision just before Williams revealed their new FW27 challenger in Valencia. While this will undoubtedly please Williams's engine partner, BMW, who first put him forward, this is far from a political decision. Heidfeld is one of the most consistently underrated drivers despite matching the speed of the rookie Kimi Raikkonen at Sauber-Petronas during his sophomore year in 2001, and pushing an uncompetitive Jordan-Ford into places it had no right to be last season.

"I really wanted this job," said Heidfeld, for whom the drive is a chance to resurrect his career. "This is the greatest opportunity of my life."

"It wasn't an easy decision for us to make," observed the team's owner, Sir Frank Williams, who said much the same in 2000 when he chose the rookie Jenson Button over the Brazilian Bruno Junqueira in very similar circumstances.

"There was little to choose between the two of them and we were fortunate to be able to choose between two drivers who would be a credit to any Formula One team.."

The news will please Webber, the Australian who had previously expressed disdain for Pizzonia, his former team-mate when they were at Jaguar in 2003.