There was drama in the Spa paddock this afternoon as the jilted driver in the Renault camp, Nick Heidfeld, turned up wearing team gear and saying that he has a valid contract to race and has launched legal proceedings against the Renault team.
His replacement, Bruno Senna, said that he has a confirmed deal for two races, Spa and Monza and that beyond that it depends on some legal issues but that “the intention is to do the rest of the season.”
Renault confirmed this at 4pm with a statement saying, “The team’s present intention is to give Bruno the opportunity to race for the rest of the season. However, some legal issues have not been fully resolved as yet and, as a result, the team will make another announcement on this matter in due course.”
The picture is further clouded by French sources who suggest that the plan for some time has been for Romain Grosjean to drive the car from Singapore onwards.
However it seems that the recent fund management deal between Renault team owner Genii and the Brazilian WWI Group has changed things a little. The picture should become clearer when Genii boss Gerard Lopez comes to the circuit. Last night Heidfeld’s management team issued a statement about its intention to force its position through the courts and said that it belives money lies behind the decision and that the move had been made “for apparently purely financial reasons. We do not intend to rest before Nick’s legal position has been fully restored.”
Heidfeld looked quietly defiant as he stood in the Spa paddock outside the Renault motorhome answering questions. It looked a spontaneous move, his name was not on the Renault media schedule for the day and he was there to make his point. There was little he could say; he refused to say when the team told him that he would not be racing in Spa,
“There are court proceedings so I cannot tell you much,” said Heidfeld. Each driver wants to drive. I believe that I have a valid contract and I want to drive. We will see in three weeks, there is a main hearing and we will know then. I’m here with the team this weekend, I have a contract and I will just do what I can do.”
Meanwhile Senna said that his task, coming in half way through a season with no testing and just 25 laps of Free Practice in Hungary made it difficult to get to the level of the current drivers but he would do his best.
“It is going to be a big challenge to come back into the middle of the season, a bit later than the middle of the season, to go racing. But I have been participating in all the meetings with the engineers, and am up-to-date with all that is going on at team. Hungary was useful to know how the car could go, but it will be an uphill battle to get on the form of these guys, who have been racing for 11 races now. But I am really looking forward to it, hoping to progress fast and repay the faith the team has given me.
“I know I have to learn how to deal with the tyres from the first set to qualifying, and learn how to deal with tyres in the race. All this experience I don’t have, so it will be the first time. If I can be anywhere near Petrov, that will be a good reference.”
The challenge of getting the best out of the tyres in qualifying will be significant. Senna had only one set of tyres to work with in Hungary and set his fastest time towards the end of his 25 laps stint. At that time, on a similar programme to Petrov, he was faster, but getting it all together for the Q1 and Q2 laps will be the crucial thing. Although he had a season with the back of the grid HRT team last year, he seems to be treating this like his F1 debut proper, his chance to show the F1 world what he can do.
Asked about Michael Schumacher and his 20 years in F1 he said that he hoped to battle with the German for points on Sunday. Certainly the Renault is close on pace to the Mercedes so the prospect is real.