Renault has confirmed that Nick Heidfeld will test for the team during the Jerez test as the squad evaluate possible replacements for the injured Robert Kubica.
With test driver Bruno Senna also set to have his first laps in the R31 it is clear that this test, and in all likelihood the Barcelona test, will become a shoot out for a seat in what looks like being a front running car in 2011.
Both Heidfeld and Senna raced last season in F1. They also would bring various positives attributes to the team. Heidfeld has 172 Grand Prix starts, including a pole position, and has long been recognised as one of the sports leading development drivers; a crucial advantage for the likeable German. Having spent part of 2010 as Pirelli’s official test driver he also would come armed with knowledge of the new control tyre.
Senna on the other hand has just a single season of F1 experience. The Brazilian showed promise in lower formulae, especially in GP2, but was clearly hamstrung by the woefully uncompetitive HRT last season. To get a better understanding of his potential a look at his first test in an F1 car paints a much more attractive picture. In the winter of 2008 Senna tested for Honda in Barcelona where he was within 0.3s of Jenson Button.
His pace, and feedback, was impressive enough for Honda to seriously consider him for the role of teammate to Button. Of course within weeks of this test Honda pulled out of F1 and Senna’s hopes of racing in F1 vanished with it. When Ross Brawn bought the team he had little option but to rehire Rubens Barrichello so that the team could develop what would become the title winning BGP001 and score consistent points.
Renault has also announced that Vitaly Petrov will drive for the first two days of the Jerez test before the handing over to Senna and Heidfeld for the final two days.