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Heidfeld gets Mercedes test role
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Heidfeld gets Mercedes test role
Posted By: James Allen  |  04 Feb 2010   |  11:57 am GMT  |  142 comments

Nick Heidfeld has finally landed the Mercedes testing and 3rd driver role.

Heidfeld: on sidelines again (Darren Heath)

Heidfeld: on sidelines again (Darren Heath)


The team announced this morning that the experienced 32 year old will complete the all German line up in the new team.

In his junior days he was a test driver for McLaren Mercedes but did not get taken on in an F1 race seat. He was at Sauber in 2001 when Mercedes and McLaren again overlooked him and chose his team mate Kimi Raikkonen instead. His career has had several false starts and never delivered the race wins his speed and engineering prowess deserved.

With drives and Sauber and Renault having been filled last week, Heidfeld’s options were getting thin and rather than follow Jarno Trulli into employment with a new team, he has chosen to stay close to the action at the front of the grid, albeit in a reserve role.

“Whilst I would of course have preferred a seat as an active driver, I am really proud to be part of the new Silver Arrows team,” he said. “It’s the team which has attracted the most interest in the close season, not only because of the comeback of Michael Schumacher, but also because this season sees the return of the Silver Arrows cars as a Mercedes-Benz works team for the first time in over fifty years.”

The key word here is “active”. Test drivers today don’t do much actual driving of racing cars due to the testing ban, but Heidfeld will be actively employed in the simulator and will attend events in his reserve capacity, should anything happen to Nico Rosberg or Michael Schumacher. With Schumacher being 41 and recovering from a neck injury, it’s a wise move by the team to have a driver who they know will be able to compete straight away should he be called on.

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142 Comments
  1. Andrew S says:

    Shame Nick couldnt get a drive for 2010 I like him (what we see/hear on tv).

    I think this could be a canny move as MS neck may play up and its a safe bet for the team to have a truly experienced 3rd driver as back up.

  2. Arya says:

    I still can’t fathom the reason Sauber took Pedro and overlooked Nick.

    I hope James and throw some light.

    1. Pierre says:

      The only reason I personnaly see is the money de la Rosa has from the Santander subsidiary. Look at the sauber car, still no sponsor, and Sauber made no secret he was looking for budget for the end of 2010 and 2011.
      I do not believe Nick was too expensive (neither do I believe kimi was too expensive too for McLaren). When you’ve earn so much money, when you love driving, then it’s not a problem at all to drive for few.

      1. James Allen says:

        It is less than €1m

      2. Arya says:

        Then why James? I just feel Nick will go down the list of wasted talents in F1. I just wish he would have been in F1 25 years back when it was not so much about presentability, so called “charisma” :(. I am livid!

      3. James Allen says:

        Greatest lost talent of modern times = Jean Alesi

      4. Pierre says:

        Yes James, but it’s better than zero.
        What do you think about it? Do you explain it only because Nick was asking for about 4m and did not want to accept less more? I’m perhaps wrong, but this does not make sens to me.
        Have you been talking to him or Sauber yet? Is he just gambling on the fact Schumacher could stop during the year if the results are no good or his neck is hurting once again, and/or Schumacher or Rosberg could leave the team end of 2010 (I personnaly do not see it)?

      5. James Allen says:

        Not spoken to him yet

      6. Williams4Ever says:

        From I gathered, Pedro’s Salary is not an overhead for Peter.Its already taken care for by the Santander Subsidiary.
        I guess Nick should have thrown in an offer to Drive the Sauber Transporters to race venues in addition to working for free….

      7. Renn Sport says:

        On lost talents I would say = Montoya is the greatest loss to F1 in Modern times.

    2. Alex says:

      Not the fastest of drivers, maybe even less than Heidfeld, but Pedro is arguably one of the best at providing feedback and help develop the car over the course of the season. He spend 7 years at McLaren doing just that. If this is what Sauber was looking for, it’s no wonder he was selected over Heidfeld. Plus it’s fair to assume that Pedro’s salary is considerably lower than Heidfeld’s would have been.

      1. Arya says:

        Could not agree more james. Alesi was a championship material,better than few champions we had in 90s. Damn the glamour quotient of F1 which has left him with no more than 1 race win![:x]

      2. Rich C says:

        Alesi was awesome on a wet track! Talk about car control…

      3. HowardHughes says:

        Alesi has a rare talent. Such subtlety, such finesse, such verve. Yup, his vinyard produces some excellent grapes.

  3. Richard S says:

    Hi James!

    Unrelated question but is there any chance that you might be joining the bbc for this year? That would make this season perfect!!

    Fantastic site btw

    Rich

    1. kristian says:

      This sentiment keeps popping up in the comments but it would be a step backwards. James is better suited to this work, not just the blog, but rapid community communication. If FOM would open up it’s press access a bit, James could run an inside F1 interviews and commentary right from this site. Even in real time during the races. The road block to this sort of new media barrage doesn’t lie in the technology or people’s ability but FOM’s fear of losing control of it’s brand. Is that a justified fear? Probably, they seem incapable of grasping the benefits of increased fan interaction. James already destroys the official F1 site for content and interaction.

      To further reinforce FOM’s ignorance of the internet, they didn’t even own F1.com or formula1.com. It used to be a privately run (and well run) site until they seized it via a long court case.

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/4469183/Formula1.com-puts-anti-trust-case-against-Ecclestone.html

      19 Oct 2000

      “In June, Formula1.com – which claims it is the most popular Formula One web site – won non-binding arbitration in a case brought by Mr Ecclestone which allowed it to continue using its domain name. However Formula One Management then took Formula1.com to court over infringement of copyright.

      Formula1.com filed the suit in California alleging that Formula One Management is restricting access to photos and other information. Formula1.com claimed it had already lost two of its photo suppliers this year, after the agencies were told they could only supply approved users.”

      1. Brace says:

        I thought that’s fom’s website. :/

    2. Richard says:

      My guess is no. He has a great blog and complete editorial control. He can connect with an articulate audience that is passionate about F1 (as he is). The commentary job is a poisoned chalice. I would imagine James has a degree of sympathy and empathy with the incumbent. James was, in my opinion, better informed and more passionate but this has got to be a better outlet for his expertise. For a whole bunch of reasons to do with rose tinted glasses, a massive change in communications and the multiplication of outlets for viewers to have their say all combine to make the lead commentators job a pretty lousy career move.

      James, love the blog.

      1. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

        Please come back to the BBC James. I cannot stand Legard…he’s just not up to the task.

        The guy does virtually nothing between races. No insight, a very very shallow blog and no connection with F1 fans.

    3. completely agree, James we need you back. That bl00dy legard “on a charge” drives me nuts. Im suprised martin can stand him. James the tax payer NEEDS YOU!!

  4. Matt W says:

    By signing Heidfeld I’m convinced Schumacher is only going to do a handful of races. Why else would Heidfeld accept a testing role when there are options for a full ride.

    On the subject of simulators, I’d like to hear more about how these work if you ever get chance to do an article on them James. Pretty please?!?

    1. Phil C says:

      What are the options? Campos and USF1, both of whom probably need pay drivers. Sauber overlooked him, and Renault chose Petrov probably for his money. I think he’s in the smart seat for this season considering teh options available to him

    2. Danny says:

      ‘Schumacher is only going to do a handful of races’. He has signed THREE year contract. Have no worries about the neck, Schumacher would not be coming back if he was not 100 per cent confident of staying the course. The comeback IS ON!!!

      1. Matt W says:

        I just feel that Nick has gone to Merc in the hope that Schumacher won’t make the full season. Should the Merc turn up off the pace, I just can’t see Schumacher doing the full season.

        I know he has a three year contract, but in reality this means nothing if Schumacher decides he no longer wants to race.

        Time will tell of course.

  5. Brandon says:

    Poor nick doesn’t get a break does he? At least he’s not slow and hes at a good team. I’d also like to think he’d replace ms when he retires again.

    1. Henry says:

      When MS retires its no secret that Mercedes want Sebastien Vettel as their next driver, probably going to join in 2011 when his red bull contract terminates.

      1. Maybe if Vettal wins a few with Red Bull, and Merc don’t ‘step up to the plate’ he would rather stay put. ?

      2. Charlie B says:

        That’s Kimis’s space if he wants it. So maybe for the second time a team will want Kimi over Nick.

  6. Tripod Ape says:

    Heidfeld’s appointment really just further emphasises that Mercedes are running this as a German national team.

    1. Neil Barr says:

      They need a third driver and Heidfeld is by far the best available. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

    2. Det says:

      Hmmm… wonder if there’s any other team like that… Hamilton, Button, Paffett… no, no other team comes to mind!

  7. Ii am gobsmacked that quick nick Hasnt got a race seat!

  8. I wouldn’t be Heidfeld’s biggest fan, but I think its disappointing that one of the most consistent drivers of the last few years won’t be getting a full drive this year.

  9. James B says:

    Plenty of typos in that piece!

  10. Bim says:

    Im really sad to his talent get wasted on reserveroles, he really has speed in him just think of the sauber days when you really coludnt tell a difference between him and Raikonen. The twins as they where called that season almost always qualifyed next to eachother and for most races raced eachother over the finishline.

    1. Im really sad to his talent get wasted on reserveroles

      I hear he is quite good with profiteroles…

      1. James Allen says:

        Not to mention rissoles..

  11. a la horca con todas las feminazis. says:

    He was chosen by bmw instead of montoya. Monty got tired of f1 stupidity, and went to nascar. We had to wach a second class driver with a f1 race seat, while a class one driver went to america to entertain the red necks.
    Now he is where he belongs. No disrespect, but i miss montoya. And i know i am not the only one.

    1. Mark Crooks says:

      “entertain the red necks” – there is no need to insult the american readers on this site

      1. Rich C says:

        Thats only an insult to rednecks, not Americans.
        And *my opinion of nascar is lower than whalepoop. I think more highly of World of Outlaws!

    2. Wolfgang says:

      Your nick is not very friendly…

  12. Kav says:

    Massive shame. One of the best drivers out there, I always thought he was best of the rest (Alonso/Raikkonen/Hamilton/Vettel/Massa and maybe Kubica). Strange how his career may have turned out if he joined Honda before they pulled out. He could have been the reigning World Champion at McLaren or Mercedes.

    Huge shame considering he was one of the favourites for McLaren and Mercedes, but it is his decision, he is gambling for a shot at a top seat for the future.

  13. Gareth Winslade says:

    Woo first comment!!

    I do feel a bit sorry for Heidfeld as he is a better driver than his stats suggest. I remember becoming a fan during his year at Williams and was expecting fireworks when he joined BMW only for it to not really happen.

    His prowess at double overtakes through corners in the wet should not be forgotten!

    1. haha says:

      13th comment :D

    2. Martin P says:

      Looks like the stewards gave you a 13 place grid penalty.

  14. rpaco says:

    Well at least it’s something, a great pity he was overlooked as an active driver, much underrated.

  15. P Byrne says:

    I’ve come to the conclusion in recent times that Heidfeld is a REALLY underrated driver, such a pity to see him on the sidelines. He’s kept some very quick team mates honest, including the highly-rated Kubica.

    Maybe there is a perception the ‘killer instinct’ is missing. The fact he held the record for most consecutive race finishes may have worked against him.

  16. Monktonnik says:

    I can’t help bur think that Heidfeld’s career has been hampered more by the media perception of him rather than his actual pace and ability.

    There are race seats that he could/ should have got.

    James, is Heidfeld’s problem a lack of sponsorship or a lack of personality?

    1. Kav says:

      Most people regard him as a driver who doesn’t try to actually race, but rather cruise to the finish due to his consecutive finishes record.

      That is really unfair as he pulls off some great overtakes, you just have to look at Malaysia 2008 and Silverstone 2008 where he did double overtakes multiple times! Alonso even said he fears seeing Heidfeld in his mirrors! (He has been overtaken by him in Monaco 2005/Bahrain 2007/Magny-Cours 2007 I think/ Malaysia 08 etc etc.)

      He just hasn’t been perceived by the public positively.

      1. Krzysztof says:

        Well, the famous double-overtake at Silverstone happened when he was on full wets while the others were on dry tires. No great skill required to achieve that particular feat.

  17. RB says:

    I think this guy will be back in a car mid-way through the season. Schumacher will likely be fine, but some of the newer drivers may not make the grade.

  18. Richard says:

    The end of another F1 driving career. F1 moves at such a fast pace that his nine years as a driver must have flown by. F3 champion, F3000 Champion and then a mediocre career in F1, in my view driven more by the car/team than a true reflection of his abilities. As one of the most consistent performers and not particularly accident prone I think he could have done well in a great car (a la Button). In my view he is probably the closest comparison to Jenson Button in terms of ability and experience. Unfortunately for Nick the cards didn’t play the same way. He will undoubtedly be a great asset for Mercedes though.

  19. Hairs says:

    Hmmm.. wonder did Mr Davidson leave at the end of December, or was he turned down? Either way, it’s not great to see either driver not get a chance at a grid slot. Davidson is easily better than Sutil, and Heidfeld deserves more credit than Kubica gets.

    1. rpaco says:

      Yes our Ant will be missing again, but fortunately last year, together with Croftie, he provided a very welcome alternative to the BBC TV’s spasmodic football style commentary by Leggard, frequently talking over his infinitely more knowledgeable partner Martin Brundle, Of course one still had to switch back for the dissection and Eddie Jordan’s inventive predictions.

  20. Paul says:

    Do you think Heidfeld has a Michael Schumacher voodoo doll and will be sticking pins into its neck?

    A real shame that Heidfeld won’t be on the grid this year. He would have been excellent for Renault, Sauber, Williams or Force India

    He is very canny though. He knew that after being dropped by Sauber in 2003 his best opportunity was to keep racing. And it was his excellent drives in the Jordan that got him the Williams seat in 2005. Maybe this will be his best opportunity as well?

  21. Adam says:

    He is too good a driver to not have a race seat. He is taking a big gamble that Schumacher’s neck does not last the season.

  22. The Kitchen Cynic says:

    Could be a good move. How long is Schumi really going to stay for after all?

  23. James says:

    Hi James,

    Are you aware if heidfeld turned down any opportunties while waiting on whether Schumacher came back.
    Do you believe this is the end of Heidfeld’s career or will being Mercedes thrid driver place him in a good position for next year if either Mercedes/Mclaren driver decided to jump ship?

  24. James B says:

    I feel bad for Nick, he definitely deserves to be out there on the grid in a competitive car. Although with MS’ neck issues he may yet find that this season, although I would never wish harm on any driver, especially not one who has contributed so much to the sport.

    Lets hope he stays fit, stays interested, and gets a seat on the grid next season.

  25. PaulL says:

    Nick Heidfeld must lack some “X” factor because he constantly achieves but people still fail to be impressed.

    As team mate he’s outscored Kimi Raikkonen, Felippe Massa, Georgio Pantano, Mark Webber (before his season ending accident), former champ Jacques Villeneuve, and Robert Kubica twice (07 and 09, he also handed Kubica the chance to win at Canada 08), you could argue that he also outperformed all those.

    What is it that causes teams to overlook Quick Nick??

    1. Glen says:

      From memory, I think Frentzen out-performed him.

      1. PaulL says:

        He wasn’t flawless by any stretch. I’m just pointing out that I think it’s significant that he’s seen off some big names.

      2. David Hamilton says:

        Just looked up that season – it’s hardly one-way traffic. Where they both finished, Heidfeld finished ahead 4 times and HHF 3 times, with a lot of the differences being due to differing race strategies. Most of the difference in points was down to a wet-dry USA GP where HHF was third.

    2. huuu says:

      In 2001 once it was clear Kimi was not staying with Sauber for another season Nick was clearly favoured by the team. Go and read some interviews… it is clear from what Kimi was saying back then that the team wasn’t really trying to get him better results any more. In one race they let him race a broken car throughout the whole weekend, did nothing to try to fix it, it was broken in a practice and they let him race that without bothering to do anything to correct the problem. Irresponsible behaviour from the team – if the car is broken then they either fix it or don’t race it at all because it’s a safety risk.

  26. Lewis Jones says:

    I think this is a great move for Nick and better than trying his luck with one of the new teams as a driver. I’m almost tempted to go down to Ladbrokes this afternoon and put a couple of quid down on him becoming a race driver for the team in 2011.

    People who have read my previous posts on Nick know that I think either Rosberg will decide to take Rubens’ advice and ‘get out of there’ if he gets blown away this season OR Schumi will realise he can’t handle the young guns and retire (again) at the end of this season.

    Obviously, Vettel is the uncertain factor in all this, but if he is under contract with Red Bull until 2012, I think Nick is ideally placed to ‘do a Damon 93′ and step up to the race team next year if either Nico looks to change teams or Michael retires again.

    Any thoughts James?

  27. F1ART says:

    What a wasted talent.

  28. Red5 says:

    ‘Active’ really is the key word here.

    Is there another job in the world that pays so much for doing so little?

    More seriously, does the reserve driver also help take some of the sponsor work away from the 2 lead drivers?

    Why are the test drivers not part of a support race during the weekend either in F1/single seater cars or another FIA category? That could keep them semi-active whilst also keeping their race craft sharp.

  29. Ginger says:

    Its a sad tale really isn’t it. The headline could have been ‘Quick Nick couldn’t afford the Renault seat.’

    Shame but given the climate you can understand it.

  30. Brian Martin says:

    Nick is too good to be a reserve driver in my opinion. On the positive side, he could end up in a car if MS neck gives him problems…

  31. Jack Tors says:

    James you said it perfectly, Heidfeld’s luck and/or timing is sadly becoming legendary. He has always been consistently rated as being very technically savy correct? If I recall Frank Williams comments after the Heidfeld/Pizzonia “shootout” that was pretty much what he said.

    Of any driver he is the one im most curious to see in a top team and what he could really do. From what I remember he had better results than both Kimi and Felipe at Sauber and look where they ended up. I had a gut feeling the last couple years at BMW was his time to really do something special or else… Too bad.

  32. James says:

    Hi James,

    Can you confirm if Nick turned down any drives while waiting on the Mercedes seat?
    Would you say his F1 career is over? i guess he has a good shout at a Mercedes/Mclaren drive if any of the drivers jump ship next season

  33. James says:

    apologies for the second post – computer crashed on first attempt was’nt expecting it to have worked

  34. JamesF1 says:

    I wondered whether he might be doing the Friday sessions like di Resta is at Force India? Admittedly he doesn’t need the practice like di Resta does, but a wise move by Merc in case anything reoccurs with Schumacher’s injury.

  35. Peter says:

    Is there going to be Friday sessions for the test drivers. It’s totally unfair on the test drivers to not be allowed.

    1. Stu says:

      Test drivers are allowed to test during friday practice sessions. It’s just that the teams choose not to use this option.

  36. Tomek says:

    I think that, when the season begins, as long as Schumacher will be doing ok, Nick won’t be given a drive, even on Fridays. Ross would rather let Michael and Nico work on set up for the qualifying/race. What would suit Nick would not automatically be good for Schumi or Nico.
    In my opinion the only possibility that Nick would be given a chance to drive during weekends (Fridays included) is either Schumacher’s neck problems (what JA suggested) or fatigue. Season is long and it is not sure how Michael after quite long absence will be doing in terms of his fitness…

  37. Charles says:

    Pretty smart move by Nick. His only goal left in F1 is to win a race, and he won’t do that with any of the new teams (or Renault, for that matter). It makes sense for him to go Mercedes, who should have a competitive car, and be ready in case something should derail Schumacher’s comeback (which admittedly doesn’t seem likely, but still).

  38. John F says:

    What a waste. What a shame Nick is out of a race seat. So far the biggest looser of the 2010 musical chairs game.
    I’m afraid that this may spell the end to his F1 career.

    James, you said in a previous post that Kubica hasn’t really endorsed Nick’s employment at Renault.

    Was this really ever an option to Nick or was he doomed to loose this seat once Petrov with the Sponsor Millions knocked at the door?

    How much influence did Kubica had on Renault’s driver decision? And if it is really true that Kubica didn’t really wanted Nick as team mate, would you know why? Is there bad blood between those two?

    1. James Allen says:

      Not much influence. He would have preferred an experienced driver but he’s also a realist and Petrov has a decent mix of commercial appeal with talent

  39. travis says:

    Dont you feel, that f1 is losing credibility there are now more sponsored drivers than the ones signed on real ability.
    If someone like Nh can’t find a suitable race seat then what are these guys trying to prove that nh is no longer good enough to be on a pay roll.
    well, whatever may be the situation, now if you look beyond alonso,shuma…, or hamilton, f1 is seriously lacking in driver talent.

    the only reason this has happened and the premature retirement of kr is solely to do with the politics going on in here.

  40. George says:

    I have to say I’m happy he didn’t go to a new team, maybe he’ll get a drive in 2011 if Vettel is still stuck at Red Bull.

    1. James Allen says:

      Don’t hold your breath

  41. Ali Unal says:

    I am really at a loss to explain what has just happened to Formula 1 in last two or three years by the invention of the infamous term “improving the show” (After all, it’s a circus!).

    From the days where even teams do not know exactly when the race starts or who will race to the days where we even know when press conferences will be held at each race location, it’s been a tremendous effort to set things up and in order. But now, it is set to collapse all over again.

    Bloody nonsense “three no-show” regulation is rumoured to be in place leaving the field in total chaos. A team who even doesn’t have any application nor any legal basis for entering to F1 sent their equipments for the first race in case one or two of new teams doesn’t make it! New teams entered into Formula 1 when budget cap was in place, hence setting up their budget accordingly but then that idea was scrapped pushing them into a chaos-like situation, where they would have to find financial backing (remember new teams are encouraged to enter into F1 as regulatary body promised that costs will be reduced!). Now we are mocking them for not being ready for the tests. We turned them into scapegoats. MOstly experienced drivers are used in tests to develop the car leaving young drivers still “young, forever young.” Even teams like Renault chose a driver who will bring them some money. Should I say “hell out of a money!” I thought we had ended pay-driver era with Yamamoto or Ide. And finally, one of the most consistent drivers out there was sent to sidelines as he doesn’t have money with him.

    Not that I am a fan of Heidfeld but it makes me sad that one of the most consistent (and fast at times) driver cannot secure a drive in a year where we will have 3 new teams and in an era in which experience counts due to testing ban. I am at a loss to explain this. Does these help improving the show?

    You know what. Anyone who has difficulties to grasp the meaning of irony should follow F1.

    Testing ban in fact (should’ve) helped experienced drivers to rise from the ashes. But that wasn’t enough for Nick the Quick. He should have had money and that drives me crazy.

    Circuits need money to keep the races, drivers need money to keep their seats, teams need money to go up against the “giant” teams.

    Bring back the attendence sheet. It’s changing times. Ferrari? Here! McLaren? Here! Campos? Absent. He’s ill.

    Sucks.

  42. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

    James, any further news on Bernie wanting Ralf Schumacher to race for Stefan GP?

    With its gallery of rogues and controversial characters – this looks like becoming one of the most loathed teams in the pitlane!

    Separately, any thoughts on Ross Brawn’s comments on the competitiveness of the car.

  43. Silverstoned says:

    “recovering from a neck injury..”

    Still recovering??? why can he drive now If the neck isn’t 100%?

  44. Paul Mc says:

    Nicks problem is that he never really stood out amongst the second tier of drivers. If he really wanted to he could have surely bagged a drive with one of the new teams. Still a test driver at Merc is not bad…

  45. Jose - Perth says:

    I think James gave a pretty good definition of Nick “a driver who can compete straight away”.

    And he can keep his car on the black stuff more than most!

  46. Stu says:

    He obviously thinks he’s too good to race with the monkeys at the back (as Lewis once called them) or he would have gone to one of the new teams who would have benefited from his knowledge / experience and data from his consistency.

    He once managed to be to be the 3rd best German in F1. Admittedly that was due to there only being 3 German drivers! But now he’s only the 3rd best German driver in one team.

    I wonder how Ross Brawn will react to Nicks beard, he’s been trying to grow that thing for years. He put up with Branson due to his cash but now Nick comes along with ‘his’ beard face and shows him up.

    Enjoy your semi-retirement Nick. You’ll be in DTM before long.

  47. James W says:

    Is Ross Brawn, Nick Fry, Andrew Shovlin, Jock Clear and the rest of the team fluent in German at all? I can only imagine it would help this year!

  48. Rachid says:

    Such a shame. Renault should really have bagged him. With Kovalainen, Piquet Jr., Grosjean and now potentially Petrov, Renault never had a second driver who was able to finish in the points consistently. It’s cost them so much. Heidfeld would’ve been a safe choice in a year where the team needs to rebuild respect.

  49. apachesmith says:

    I have to say the majority of comments on this article have amazed me. Nick has never delivered when he had a chance hence he was overlooked at by McLaren Mercedes in favour of Kimi and hasnt been given a competataive drive by any of the front running teams this year. Really there are far to many good up and coming drivers coming through the ranks for the likes of Heidfield to be given a competitive drive. I think it was the same with Ralf Schumacher their natural level really is DTM and that has been shown with his lack of a drive this year.

  50. Martin P says:

    The saga of Nick and his race seat has been the puzzle of the off-season to me. My theories on how he’s ended up where he is are;

    1. He was holding out for seat at either Renault, Sauber Mercedes or McLaren…. so didn’t take any early approaches from new teams that might have happened too seriously. (If he had any at all?!). I think that would be quite understandable early on… Kimi was going, Rubens had already signed for Williams and there was no serious sign that Schumi would take up a vital piece of the jigsaw.

    2. He is a proven, quick, steady points winner. He therefore understandably wants paying. But maybe as it became clearer that the top seats were gone, he out-priced himself in the few remaining “new” seats.

    3. Kubica didn’t want him at Renault? Nick has pushed Kubica pretty hard (or even pulled?!) but for some reason doesn’t get the press. But surely it can’t do Kubica’s image much good to not be seen to be blitzing his team-mate for much longer? Before the buy-out I doubt he’d have had much choice – but as soon as he had the “get-out” clause to play I suspect he had a much better chance of saying who he did or didn’t want alongside him if he was going to stay. He stayed and the seat went elsewhere.

    4. De La Rosa’s Sauber seat was the most likely option on paper. But what could he tell the team that the existing ex-BMW engineering team didn’t already know? Pedro on the other hand brings almost a decade of McLaren know-how. Even if it’s just new ideas on testing and insider knowledge on race strategy it could be very useful. In Sauber’s current position, I’d have gone for Pedro too (and banked the relatively small but welcome sponsorship he brings too).

    5. All of that leaves him with grovelling for one of the few remaining back-marker seats or reserve driver. I suspect a few weeks ago he’d end up as either a McLaren or Mercedes reserve driver (I predicted McLaren on here though!). Given that choice the reserve role is a no-brainer… top team, top knowledge and the SLIM potential that in a year Keke will be looking to move Jnr on rather than face another 2 years as Schumi’s stooge – a role I suspect quick-Nick would be perfect in.

    I also have a suspicion the moon landings were filmed just off turn 4 at Bahrain.

  51. Pete says:

    James,

    Do you read Jo Saward’s blog?

    “Having had a look at the times from Valencia, I have concluded that any conclusions are foolhardy and I will leave that up to mate James Allen”

    That made me smile :)

  52. EGC says:

    James:

    I think you shouldn’t allow somebody using the nickname “a la horca con todas las feminazis.”

    That means something as “lets send to the gallows to all the nazi-feminist”

    Not very nice :-(

    BTW. I like very much your blog, thanks for your work.

    1. “lets send to the gallows to all the nazi-feminist”

      That doesn’t mean much.
      What is a nazi-feminist?
      And how does that relate to F1?

      1. James Allen says:

        This line of discussion is now closed. It’s not what this space is for.

  53. Jodum5 says:

    I’ve always like Heidfeld, but if he’s such a darned good driver, his management has done an atrocious service to him in selling that fact to race teams. If so, he’s probably also done a major disservice to his career by sticking by them all this time.

    I can’t say I feel bad for him.

  54. Midnight Toper says:

    I think Nick saw this coming when he began ruffling his feathers regarding driver perception towards the end of last season. I still feel for him when 80′s throwback Kubica scored BMW’s maiden victory, at the press conference he looked crest-fallen and appeared to be in pain as the dowdy Pole fielded questions from the media.

    Regarding coverage, is it just me or has Ross Brawn become a bit of a media whore over the winter. Has he employed a publicist?…F1 has employed a new points system, ask Ross….2 pits stops are being considered for 2010, ask Ross…..Will Nico be no.2?, ask Ross etc. etc. It is starting to wear thin, and I am concerned that the Sun will offer him a column called, “Ross replies” or something else equally inane.

  55. Tony says:

    If Nick is following Shumi into the paddock in a Toyota hire car who wouldn’t believe the throttle stuck and caused whiplash?

  56. Matt says:

    Could we now be looking at the second best f1 driver never to score a win (after Chris Amon)?

    Great shame. As someone else pointed out: while his team mates have talked, Nick has usually gone out and quietly beaten them. Not afraid of a good pass either.

    1. James Allen says:

      What about Martin Brundle?

      1. Matt says:

        Yep, absolutely – I was remiss in not also mentioning Martin Brundle. How things could have been different if he hadn’t suffered those four DNFs at the start of ’92…

      2. Well, Martin is quite a character.

        How many people have won as many awards as him?
        Consecutively?
        And stood their ground *in print* against bullies?
        And the bullies caved?

        No one.

        Martin may well have wanted the title WDC, but he would never have had the chance to be the awesome interviewer/commentator/pundit that he is. I wonder which is ultimately more fulfilling. My guess is that his current role is more fulfilling, even if not quite so lucrative.

        I’ve noticed that (in East Anglia, at least) he is also appearing on local news for certain topics. Perhaps (like Mr Portillo) a new, wider, career vista has opened before him?

        The bully I am referring to (in the main) is Mr Spank. I am sure you know who that is.

  57. Brandon says:

    Ms did an interview recently about coming back and said he trains 5-6 hrs per day and the norm for f1 drivers is 3 so he is not only very naturally gifted but works very very hard for it. I think he’s in as good of shape as any 22 yo f1 driver and probably faster than most

  58. onyx says:

    I cant believe all these comments about Heidfeld!Years in F1 without doing anything!He’s rubbish!What is it with you guys who rate all these journeymen like him,davidson(couldnt beat sato in f3),de la rosa…i’m with the guy who rates Montoya-thats a proper driver-wins and poles in F1,Champ car winner,Indy 500 winner,Daytona 24 hr winner,Nascar winner…

  59. Derek says:

    Nick may be thinking of the 1995 season when Nigel Mansell was too fat to fit in the car and Mika ended up with the race drive. Nick is still young enough to be World Champion if Mercedes can repeat what happened at McLaren in the late 1990s

  60. David Hamilton says:

    You mentioned his season as a teammate to Raikkonen. IIRC, they had extremely close times throughout the season – often within a few hundredths.

    My assumption at the time was that Nick was setting up the car, and that Kimi was just leaping in the car with the same settings and driving it.

    James, do you think that’s a fair assumption? If it’s correct it would make McLaren’s decision to hire Kimi over him even more galling…

    1. James Allen says:

      Maybe, but Raikkonen had the capacity to be extraordinary, which proved to be the case on many occasions

      1. David Hamilton says:

        Yes – I should have added that, given Kimi’s inexperience of car racing at the time, it would be expected, so it certainly wasn’t a criticism of Kimi at that point in his career. However I do wonder if his ability to develop a car was was led to the loss of his seat at Ferrari.

        But Kimi showed that big jumps in formulae. I bumped into Lewis and Anthony Hamilton at the Rye House kart circuit back in 2001, and had a chat with Anthony while Lewis had a go in the kart we had been testing.

        Lewis’ switch to cars was on the cards and I remember trying persuade Anthony that Kimi’s career path was the one to go for: Going through all of the lower formulae was risky, and they seem to be very different to drive from F1. Look at a number of F1 champions who have been indifferent in F3 – Lauda being a good example. Notably indifferent in F3, he only got into F1 because of the money he had available.

        They went the long route, which clearly worked, but I do still think that Lewis could have made the jump to F1 much earlier.

        Oh, and one other thing. Watching Lewis drive that day I was convinced that I had seen a future F1 World Champion. I just wish I’d put some money on it! :(

      2. David Hamilton says:

        Meant to say: “But Kimi showed that big jumps in formulae can be successful.”

    2. ani says:

      i’ve read articles ( mostly finnish ones translated ) about kimi asking for set up changes to the way he likes and also that Sauber favoured Nick when Kimi signed up for Mclaren … ( an article states Kimi was afraid to give good opinion on any new part coz then it would go to Nick – kinda hard to believe , then again if you can believe one side of the story you can believe this side too )

      1. David Hamilton says:

        I’m not entirely surprised under the circumstances:

        Kimi had been given an opportunity to learn the ropes by Sauber (I mis-remembered him as being ‘placed’ at Sauber by McLaren, but the ever excellent grandprix.com news archive has set me right on that), given that he had obvious talent but had only completed 23 car races – in any type of car! The news archive reminds me that there was huge controversy at the time in even granting Kimi a superlicence, with Max Mosley publicly criticising the decision (and unsurprisingly being proved wrong).

        The expectation by the team in those circumstances would be to rely on the more experienced driver for feedback, and for testing out the new parts.

        Some might see it as favouritism, but it just sounds like common sense to me.

      2. ani says:

        no … my point is … u said Nick would have done all the development work and Kimi just drove … so i was just telling you i ve read different .
        and now its not about favouritism , if its true ,the fact that Sauber wasnt willing to cater to Kimi after he ditched Sauber for Mclaren, needs to be accounted when people compare his performances to Nick . thats all
        ( again : i dont have proof for sauber not giving kimi the support / parts after he signed the contract with mclaren )

      3. huuu says:

        It’s true Kimi said he didn’t want to reveal if a new part worked well because then they would have taken it away from him and give it to Nick. This was when it was known Kimi was going to McLaren. It’s clear the team favoured Nick over Kimi after they learned Kimi is not staying with them for another season. Kimi’s interviews from 2001 are pretty revealing, he wasn’t hiding his displeasure at how the team was behaving.

  61. Adam Tate says:

    It just seems so obvious that Nick deserves a racing seat. Honestly if I were Norbert Haug or Ross Brawn, I would have put Nick in the other seat and made Nico tester, so he could learn from the best, and the most consistent. Certainly that long awaited maiden win would have been Heidfeld’s had he got the race seat and everyone would have been just as excited for him and we were when Webber got his last season. It’s just a shame.

  62. Rudy Pyatt says:

    Sad, bad and upsetting. The man has equalled or exceeded every teammate, as others have pointed out above.

    I guess professionalism and consistency don’t count for much these days. Chari$ma matter$ the mo$t.

    PETER WINDSOR, WHAT ARE YOU DOING!??!?!? Fix this. Now.

    Oh yeah. There’$ that $tuff.

  63. Tony says:

    And Dell Boy Warwick for that matter. Both World Sports Car Champions though.

  64. Christopher Snowdon says:

    The guy has been disappointing in the last few years, despite early promise. Make no bones about it, he could have done a good job for a midfield team (where I believe he produces his best performances), but guys don’t delude yourselves, this is not the biggest loss to formula one, its Kimi by a country mile, and that’s the sort of distance between them at the end of races to.

  65. Petition2DChicaneTamburello says:

    So it now seems like Kimi was absolutely right when he kept insisting Merc wanted an all German driver line-up. I think he already knew they were going to sign Schumacher.

  66. Jamie says:

    Greatest lost talent of modern times = Jean Alesi

    HI James!!

    I completley disagree, everyone loved the Jean person, me included, but the harsh reality was, he wasn’t that quick, the only time he had a top notch team mate was prost, and then he was on average 1½ secs slower than prost, then when frentzen stepped into Alesi’s Prost, he went second a lap quicker than Alesi, something Button also managed to do when he tested the Prost. and to think Piquet got fired for being 3 10th’s off alonso.

    1. James Allen says:

      You have got to be kidding! He was very fast indeed and a heck of a fighter. Remember when he took on Senna in a Tyrrell?

      1. Jamie says:

        Could of he given Senna a tough time in equal cars, i doubt it. When compared to his teammates, he’s ordinary at best , slow at worst, i just don’t recall him dishing that out, rather than being on the receiving end.

        I think we just mistake flamboyance for speed, and his passion fools us into looking at him with rose tinted glasses.

      2. onyx says:

        I give up!Alesi not that quick?!Are you nuts!?He was one of the greats of the last 20 years!

      3. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

        I remember what an explosive entry he had into F1. He should have taken the option to go to Williams. What a wasted talent.

        I loved his recent comment about the lack of characters in today’s F1. He said that it annoys the hell out of him when he sees the new breed sitting around playing poker….and that it makes him want to kick the table over!

        Jean Alesi is also one of the nicest guys in F1.

    2. Christopher Snowdon says:

      Berger was a quick team mate

    3. Christopher Snowdon says:

      O and Piquet jnr doesn’t deserve to be compared to any driver mentioned, especially Alesi, who was a 100% pro! He shamed his family name and the sport.

      1. Christopher Snowdon says:

        And sorry to make a third point, but where did you get your information from? Alesi a second off all these people, Piquet Jnr a 1/3 of a second off alonso? More like Piquet out in the first part of qualifying, and Alonso harrying the top 6, and in qualifying it was more like 6 tenths to a second between the two.

  67. Alistair Blevins says:

    The subject of lost talent is an interesting one. In reality those with the ‘champion’ talent always rise to the top in F1.

    I think we rue those who don’t live up to what is generally expected of them given their achievements in lower formulas and the flashes of genius they display from time to time in F1.

    As previously mentioned, the mercurial Jean Alesi is probably the best example of promise unfulfilled over the last 20 years. To much heart and not enough head?

    Jan Magnussen swept all before him in F3 – then coasted to a halt when he hit F1. Is lazy too harsh a word? Maybe naive or misguided would be more fair.

    Then there are those we lost through accident and injury. What could Johnny Herbert have achieved if not for his F3000 crash at Brands Hatch in 1988?

    Equally there are those talents that are allowed to remain becuase they are easily marketable or consistent, but not stellar. Fisichella, Trulli, Barichello.

    The ingredients to be successful in F1 are known only to a few drivers, and even they require their fair share of good fortune to make it to the top.

    A subject like this can be dissected and argued for days…

    1. David Hamilton says:

      The fascinating variable is how the two drivers in a team get on with the particular characteristics of the car – and the rules of F1 at the time.

      A great example here is Frenzen beating Heidfeld when they were together. Yet he was beaten by Villeneuve at Williams, who was beaten by… Heidfeld.

      The conclusion, I guess, is that some drivers are blisteringly quick when the car makes them feel comfortable (Alesi, Frenzen?) and others can drive around changes in setup. Jim Clark was famously sent out to test by Colin Chapman in a Lotus Cortina with understeering and them oversteering setups – and he lapped identical times (one reason why I think Clark has a claim to be the best F1 driver ever).

      Another example is Prost vs Rosberg in the McLaren in 1986. Prost was massively quicker in an understeering car, but I remain convinced that had they both been in a 1982 William, Rosberg would have been the quicker.

      That is why I love F1 – there are actually no absolutes. A driver is only as quick as he/she can be in that particular car… and cars change all the time.

  68. Jamie says:

    James, maybe you could a do piece on lost/wasted talent of the last 15 years, though it might cause a heated debate :)

  69. Stuart Moore says:

    It would be great if they could have a mini-race (or just a qualifying session) for the test drivers, as part of each race weekend. I wouldn’t have the points contribute to the main constructors championship; just have an extra one on the side.

    It would mean drivers coming in half way through a season had more (i.e. some) experience. Although I guess it goes against the whole “reducing expenses” philosophy.

  70. Z says:

    I can’t believe this guy doesn’t have a drive. He’s one of the few on the grid who actually has a brain.

  71. Benni says:

    While I do consider Heidfeld a good driver I believe he´s a little overrated. He´s been in F1 for 10 years by now so saying that he´s unlucky or a wasted talent is a in my opinion a lie. Sure, he outscored Kubica during 2 seasons, but when it really mattered (2008) it was Kubica who fought for the championship.

    It´s sad if we´ll never see him race in F1 again but he had his chances.

  72. Mario says:

    you make your own luck in F1, as well as everywhere else.

    1. David Hamilton says:

      If by that you mean that you make your own luck by working to get your own sponsors, in order to make you attractive to teams, then I agree. Certainly, if Nick had been able to bring significant personal sponsorship, he would be sitting in a Sauber race seat now.

      Not sure that you can make your own luck in racing so much, though. The outcome of a particular decision on the track is only obvious with hindsight, and even then it’s only the wrong decisions that are obvious.

      An example is Damon Hill’s collision with Schumacher in Adelaide in 1994. Was Hill unlucky to go for that gap or was it a bad decision? The difference in speed of the two cars meant that it was a split-second decision, and most drivers at the time said they would have gone for the gap…

      1. Mario says:

        it is quite difficult to explain this one, it has everything to do with my personal beliefs and very little to do with mainstream beliefs regarding ones ability to create circumstances and chances.

  73. Gareth says:

    Can’t understand why people are too stupid to spell LOSE correctly

    1. David Hamilton says:

      CHOOSE?

  74. I was just wondering James, or anyone else who knows, has there been any feedback within teams, not who is currently the fastest, but a car that is going to be a good car to develop throughout the year?

    What I’m thinking is, Mclaren last year were way off the pace but seemed to have made a car they could develop, is there any feelings that this could be the case with any if the teams this year?

    Might not be blisteringly quick right now, but the base car is good enough ti take development work and improve greatly over the season?

    1. James Allen says:

      It doesn’t really work like that. They developed the car because they had to. A real dog might not be worth developing, but being able to develop a car is all about resources, efficiency and manufacturing capability.

  75. john g says:

    i agree with most in that it’s a real shame heidfeld doesn’t have a race seat this year. however, his only alternatives were teams likely to be uncompetitive and who needed sponsorship money, neither of which would have interested him.

    so he’s gone for the best seat available to him, it’s F1′s loss rather than his.

    maybe there are questions over schumachers neck or lasting ability, i’d also add rosbergs talent, so we may see him back.

    in the mean time, he’s being paid a nice wage to enjoy time with his wife and two little kids with a potential shot in a decent car in the future.

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