Heidfeld on the comeback trail
As Singapore's skies threw down another shower of fat, warm raindrops on Thursday, there was a flurry of activity outside Sauber's motorhome.
A media melee ran to shelter under the team's large garden umbrellas - which handily also provided the setting for the first glimpse of Nick Heidfeld on his return to Formula 1 racing.
The German has been a fixture in the paddock all season but often cut an isolated figure as he drifted on the sidelines as Mercedes' reserve driver.
But, after being named as Pedro de la Rosa's replacement for the final five races of 2010, Heidfeld was glad to be back in the spotlight.
"I couldn't wish for anything better," said the 33-year-old, who will now get his 11th season in Formula 1 under way in Singapore.
Heidfeld, who lost his race seat after German car giant BMW withdrew from the sport at the end of last season, added: "I never thought it was over.
"Of course, you're never 100% sure but I always believed that I would be back."
He may not be famed for his humorous repartee - some wicked journalists have taken to calling him 'Interesting Nick' - but Heidfeld raised a few laughs in the official media conference.
When one journalist remarked that three different jobs in the space of a month - Mercedes reserve, tyre tester for 2011 supplier Pirelli and now a Sauber driver - was not bad even for an F1 driver, Heidfeld replied dryly: "Yes, if they all paid well."
Another question from the floor asking exactly what information he had gleaned about next year's tyres was met with Heidfeld hiding behind his hand and whispering: "I will speak quietly."
In reality, Heidfeld's job-juggling is no laughing matter - it is exactly the reason why the German has suddenly found himself a valuable asset for Sauber.
Team boss Peter Sauber says he re-signed Heidfeld - who drove for his team from 2001-03 and then again from 2006-09 when the team was run by BMW - to help Sauber judge the "comparative potential" of their car.
Heidfeld's knowledge of next season's Pirelli tyres will be valuable as the Swiss team plot the development of their 2011 challenger.
In theory, Heidfeld will understand more about how to design a car in tandem with the new tyres and how to eke performance out of them than any other driver on the grid.
With his Sauber contract only inked for the final quintet of races, Heidfeld hopes his tyres secrets will help him secure a race seat in 2011.
Rain is forecast for all three days over the Singapore weekend. Photo: Reuters
"Having driven for Pirelli, it should help," he added. "Some people would argue that it would have been better to stay testing and have even more of an advantage for next year but when I had the chance to sign for Sauber I definitely wanted to come back.
"I want to race. I believe I can do a good job.
"The situation for next year is completely open with Sauber but also with other teams that I have already been in talks over the last couple of weeks."
Heidfeld will make his return to the cockpit in Friday practice around the Marina Bay circuit, when he could once again share centre stage with Singapore's skies.
The bumpy, slippery street circuit has never played host to a single wet session but the forecast is for thundery showers and, as Heidfeld has found out, sometimes it pays to expect the unexpected.