Nick Heidfeld has emerged as the leading candidate to become Lewis Hamilton's McLaren teammate in 2010, according to a leading German newspaper.

Nick Heidfeld has emerged as the leading candidate to become Lewis Hamilton's McLaren teammate in 2010, according to a leading German newspaper.

Bild-Zeitung claims the 32-year-old "suddenly has the best chance" to replace Heikki Kovalainen, after Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button were also touted for the seat.

"Nick's qualities are well known to us, but still nothing is decided," Mercedes competition boss Norbert Haug is quoted as saying.

Bild said his asking price is less than 5 million euros; about half Button's desired retainer, and much lower than the apparently apathetic Raikkonen's lucrative demands.

Retaining his services would also fully appease Mercedes' desire for German drivers, with Nico Rosberg expected to go to Brawn in 2010 with the carmaker's blessing.

With BMW pulling out of F1 and the fate of the Sauber team uncertain, Heidfeld is on the market to extend his career into a tenth season next year.

Having enjoyed Mercedes support through his formative career and acting as McLaren test driver in 1999, he was gutted to have been looked over for the race seat in 2002, when his then Sauber teammate Kimi Raikkonen moved to the British team.

Perhaps coincidentally, Heidfeld walked into the paddock wearing a t-shirt with the words 'The future is not what it once was' printed on the front.

 

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