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by Tim Beissmann

Nick Heidfeld will fill the Lotus Renault GP seat of the injured Robert Kubica for the 2011 Formula One World Championship season.

The Lotus Renault racing team confirmed the decision early this morning, with the 33-year-old German to race alongside Vitaly Petrov from the opening round in Bahrain on March 13.

Heidfeld has started 172 Formula One races over the past 11 seasons but is yet to claim a Grand Prix win. Throughout his career he has achieved one pole position and 12 podium finishes.

Heidfeld explained his signing to Lotus Renault had been somewhat of a whirlwind, with his first official test session with Petrov to be held on Friday.

“I would have liked to come back to Formula One in different circumstances, but I’m proud to have been given this chance,” Heidfeld said.

“Everything has happened so quickly, but I’ve been very impressed by what I have seen so far in terms of the facilities and the dedication of the people at Enstone.

“I really enjoyed the test last week in Jerez and I’ve already settled in well with the guys at the track. I have a good feeling for the car, which is quite innovative. I’m extremely motivated and can’t wait for the season to begin.”

Lotus Renault team boss, Eric Boullier, said it was always a priority to secure an experienced driver to fill Kubica’s position.

“The team has been through a very difficult couple of weeks and we had to react quickly,” Boullier said.

“We gave Nick a chance in Jerez last week and he really impressed us. He’s quick, experienced and is very strong technically with his feedback and understanding of the car.”

Meanwhile, Kubica will remain in intensive care for another few days as he recovers from his latest round of surgery.

Surgeons spent eight hours repairing a complex fracture to the Polish driver’s elbow, taking his total time in surgery since his rally crash earlier this month to 24 hours. Surgeons have so far considered Kubica’s operations successful.

The 26-year-old racer is still hopeful of making a return to Formula One this season.




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