Pirelli is upbeat about its prospects for its return to Formula 1 as it begins testing its tires this week with Nick Heidfeld in charge of driving duties.
Heidfeld has been released from his contract as reserve driver for Mercedes GP and will kick off proper development of the tires driving a Toyota TF109 from last year.
"We're delighted to welcome Nick into the Pirelli family, and we're confident that he'll do a great job for us," said Pirelli's Motorsport Director Paul Hembery. "The role of test driver is a crucial one, so we were looking for a driver who had plenty of recent Formula 1 experience, the speed to push our new tires as hard as possible, and the consistency to provide reliable simulations, as well as the analytical skills to relay information accurately to our engineers.
"Nick fits the bill in every respect and we're very pleased to have secured his services and obviously thankful to Mercedes GP Petronas for agreeing to release Nick from his contract."
Heidfeld also indicated satisfaction with moving from a third-wheel role at Mercedes to key player in Pirelli's program.
"It's a great privilege for me to join Pirelli in order to carry out this vital work and I am very grateful to Mercedes GP Petronas for releasing me from my contract to take on this role. Through the experience I have built up over the years, I'm confident that I will be able to provide Pirelli with some important feedback regarding the development of next year's tires.
"I've got a lot to give but I haven't been driving so much this year, so it is good to get started! Together, I'm sure that we can create a dynamic range of tires that will make Formula 1 an even more exciting sport in the future."
Hembery said that having secured the use of a Toyota chassis was a great solution for Pirelli, which will be able to use a modern F1 car without benefiting any of the existing teams.
"As for the car, we have a policy of complete impartiality, so we did not want to favor any existing team," he said. "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 Formula 1.
"I'm confident that we have an extremely good package that will give us every opportunity to maximize the potential of our tires prior to the start of next season."