Mercedes GP Petronas has released Nick Heidfeld from his contract as the team’s Reserve Driver so that the German can take up the position of official test driver for Pirelli. The Italian tyremaker takes over from Bridgestone as the sole tyre supplier for F1 starting next season. Nick will assist Pirelli’s development work on the tyre compounds for 2011.

“It was clear from the beginning of our cooperation that Mercedes GP Petronas would release Nick from his obligations as soon as a promising opportunity as an active F1 driver developed. This is now the case and there could be no more experienced and knowledgeable driver in the cockpit to steer the tyre development for next season,” said Norbert Haug, Vice-President of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport.

“It would be great to see Nick in a competitive car in next year’s championship and I am sure his leading role in the new tyre development, in addition to his skills, puts Nick in a good position for the remaining seats in 2011,” Haug wished. The team has no plans to appoint a new reserve driver, a company spokesman said.

In his new job, Heidfeld will drive a Toyota TF109 from last year. Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery explained that using the Toyota chassis enables them to test in a modern F1 car without benefiting any existing team. “The Toyota was the perfect solution, as it is a contemporary racing machine with proven speed and reliability but without links to any of the manufacturers currently competing in F1,” he said.