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Heidfeld gets Mercedes test role
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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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.


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?


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.


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




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


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…


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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…


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.


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.

Christopher Snowdon

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.

Christopher Snowdon

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.

Christopher Snowdon

Berger was a quick team mate


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?

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

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.


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


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.


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.

Christopher Snowdon

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.


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


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.


Oh yeah. There’$ that $tuff.


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.


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…


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 )


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.


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.


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 )


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


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! 🙁


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


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


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…


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


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.


What about Martin Brundle?


Well, Martin is quite a character.

How many people have won as many awards as him?


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.


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…


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


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.


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.



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.


“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?


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



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 🙂

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