This week Nick Heidfeld is taking part in his second official test as a Renault driver having been drafted in to replace the injured Robert Kubica, his former team mate, who was injured in a recreational rally accident.
The Renault chance is his best opportunity to make his mark in F1 for several years, since he was at BMW Sauber in 2008 with Kubica in fact. The 33 year old was the most competitive driver with the right combination of technical ability and recent experience available. Here he speaks exclusively to my colleague Lawrence Barretto at the Barcelona test who has kindly forwarded it to me and I thought it worth sharing. ‘
Quick Nick’ reveals how the deal came together and what he would have done if the Renault seat had not come off.
What was the sequence of events which brought you to the drive with Renault?
“Well it all happened in a short period of time, but still there were a lot of phases. I heard Robert had this accident and the first message that I got was that he maybe broke his leg. Then after that, unfortunately on the internet it started to look a lot worse. I was very happy to see that he got better quite quickly, but on the other side, I saw this might be a chance for me – and that was a very strange feeling to work with knowing that if Robert was worse, I get a bigger chance. It was a very tough situation. But now that I have the chance, I’m going to try to take it. When I signed the contract, I was very happy because less than two weeks ago, there was no seat in Formula 1, at least as a race driver. I would have had an opportunity to test again but to have a seat with such a good team was not on the list.”
What would you have done if you didn’t sign for Renault?
“I think most likely I would have been test and reserve driver with Mercedes. It wasn’t signed yet but we were in talks.”
Do you think your decision to quit the Pirelli job and race for Sauber at the end of last season was a key factor in you getting this drive?
“I think it’s not very clear. I spoke to various people in Formula 1. Some thought it would be better to keep the Pirelli job and some thought it may be better to stay racing and stay in the rhythm. I think it was quite good actually. I got to do a few tests with Pirelli and get a feel for the tyres but then still stay in the rhythm of racing doing the starts and the race weekend with Sauber. Normally I’m always quite good at the start and I hope that is the same this season but it was important for me to put myself in that situation again. If was out for one season, it might take a little bit of tie to get into the swing of things again. ”
Do you think the Pirelli tyres will be a good leveller this season?
“Firstly, I think it should be a small advantage that I know the tyres although they changed after I left. But in the end, the tyres are the same for everybody. You just have to make the most of it. At the moment, it looks like it should make things more interesting. I think degradation is bigger than in the past so we should see more pitstops. It should be interesting at the beginning of the season to see how everybody adapts. ”
Would you like to see more pitstops in a race?
“Everybody wants to have exciting races. Also me, as a Formula 1 driver, I like to fight on the circuit and overtake but this is sometimes not easy. The pitstops add a lot of thrill. The in-laps, out-laps and the pitstops themselves are very crucial and you can overtake somebody. It could be a big factor in your whole race result so yes, I think it’s a good thing.”