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BMW retain Kubica, Heidfeld for '07 19 Oct 2006

(L to R): Dr Mario Theissen (GER) BMW Motorsport Technical Director and Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1 celebrate third place.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Italian Grand Prix, Race, Monza, Italy, 10 September 2006 Images of Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1 and Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1 on the BMW Sauber transporter.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Turkish Grand Prix, Preparations, Istanbul Park, Turkey, 24 August 2006 Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Hungarian Grand Prix, Preparations, Budapest, Hungary, 3 August 2006 (L to R): Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1 with Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Italian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monza, Italy, 8 September 2006 Sebastian Vettel (GER) BMW Sauber Third Driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Preparations, Suzuka, Japan, 5 October 2006

Robert Kubica, Nick Heidfeld and Sebastian Vettel will form BMW Sauber's line-up for next season, the team announced on Thursday. Kubica will continue to partner Heidfeld in the race seat he inherited from Jacques Villeneuve earlier this year, while Vettel is promoted to the position of regular test and reserve driver.

“For me to be confirmed as a driver for the team in 2007 proves that in the last five races I have done the job expected of me,” said Kubica. “Although we still have the season’s final race to go, I feel I can start my 2007 season now. The experience I have gained this year as a Friday driver up to the Hungarian Grand Prix also means that I shall know the tracks from this year we will be racing on and, therefore, have some valuable data for the start of each weekend.”

Kubica began the season as BMW Sauber’s Friday driver, but was promoted to a race seat following Villeneuve’s unexpected August departure. The Pole finished eighth in his first race in Hungary, but was later disqualified after his car was found to be underweight. Since then he has continued to impress and achieved his first podium with a third-placed finish in last month’s Italian Grand Prix.

Vettel, meanwhile, was originally drafted in by the team to temporarily fill Kubica’s vacant third seat and has since enjoyed five successful Friday outings, including an impressive debut in Istanbul, where he topped the practice times.

“I’m over the moon,” declared the German. “This is a tremendous step in the right direction. I have always dreamed of sitting in the cockpit of such a fast car on a regular basis. The task that awaits me is clear: I will do everything to help the team as a test driver and to push developments forward. I would like to thank the whole team for the trust they have placed in me, and also for giving me the opportunity earlier this season of being regularly involved as the Friday driver. It has paid off.”

Commenting on the team’s decision, BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen said: “We are very pleased with our drivers and believe we have a good line-up for the future. Robert, before he was signed as a test driver less than a year ago, was an unknown quantity. From the outset he made an outstanding impression on his test drives and in the Friday practice sessions. The reward was the switch to a racing cockpit in Budapest, a move that was vindicated when, in only his third Grand Prix, he made it onto the podium.

“After Robert’s promotion, an even younger driver was tapping at the door: 19 year-old Sebastian. He has accumulated major successes in the junior racing arena but hasn’t yet clocked up many kilometres in a Formula One car. Even so, he immediately picked up from Robert’s achievements in Friday’s practice sessions, both in lap times and set-up work. This debut was reason enough for us to confirm him as our test driver.”

Heidfeld, who joined BMW Sauber from Williams for the 2005 season, continues as expected into the second year of his contract with the German-Swiss team.