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Heidfeld hoping for second chance as he lands Pirelli test deal
Heidfeld hoping for second chance as he lands Pirelli test deal
Posted By: James Allen  |  17 Aug 2010   |  1:47 pm GMT  |  138 comments

Nick Heidfeld has accepted the role of test and development driver for Pirelli tyres, hoping that having a head start in understanding the tyre will make him an attractive proposition to an F1 team as a race driver for 2011.

The 33 year old German has been a rather forlorn looking reserve driver for Mercedes this season. With no on track testing allowed during the season, his role has been largely on the simulator and behind the scenes at the factory and the race track.

The Pirelli opportunity involves him driving the 2009 Toyota car, not the car which was designed and built for 2010 but never raced after the Japanese giant pulled out. The test programme, due to start straight away, will be extensive and will help Pirelli develop casings and a set of four tyre compounds for its return to the sport in 2011. After an absence of almost 20 years, the company plans to take a conservative approach and Heidfeld’s experience will come in very useful in finding the right compounds.

Toyota are running the car, with mechanics and engineers still employed at the old factory in Cologne. In total there will be 18 Toyota staff at the test in Mugello, where the car is running white and without logos. Toyota engineers are under contractual obligation not to share any Bridgestone technical data with the Pirelli engineers.

“We have a policy of complete impartiality, so we did not want to favour any existing team,” said Pirelli competition boss Paul Hembery. “The Toyota was the perfect solution, as it is a contemporary racing machine with proven speed and reliability but without links to any of the manufacturers currently competing in Formula One.”

As we have seen this year with Michael Schumacher’s problems at Mercedes, understanding how to get the best from the tyres is a vital part of being fast and this will be especially true on what will otherwise be a level playing field with unknown tyres next season.

That said, Heidfeld struggled with front tyre warm up in his BMW Sauber days, compared with Robert Kubica so his style of driving, gentle on the tyres, will need to be taken into account by the Pirelli engineers.

Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug said, “It would be great to see Nick in a competitive
car in next year’s Formula One World Championship and I am sure his leading role in the new tyre development, in addition to his skills, puts Nick in a good position for the remaining seats in 2011.”

Heidfeld was a Mercedes young driver and thought he was on a fast track to a McLaren seat in the early 2000s, but Mercedes and McLaren took Kimi Raikkonen instead. Heidfeld then went to BMW, but came back to Mercedes in the reserve driver role this year. It will be interesting to see whether one of the Mercedes engined teams takes him next year or whether another forward thinking team decides to give him a run.

Sauber ran him during two separate stints and in the most recent one were not pleased when he suddenly speeded up by four tenths of a second per lap when the replaced Jacques Villeneuve with Robert Kubica in 2006. Peter Sauber felt that he should have been putting everything on the table all the time.

But if testing remains very limited next season, then having Heidfeld’s experience, even for one season, would be vastly preferable to running a rookie, so you may see him get a second chance.

He’s strong on engineering and his performances alongside Kubica showed that if the car is set up to his liking he can be very fast. The problem was that he and Kubica wanted quite different things from a car.

“The team has always said that they would not stand in my way if such a chance arose and they have kindly allowed me to take up this exciting new role,” said Heidfeld.

Pirelli has also taken the smart move of hiring the hugely experienced Peter Grzelinski and James Gresham to manage the tyre logistics. They have been responsible for this role with Bridgestone throughout their time in F1, stretching back to 1997 and have forgotten more about moving tyres around the world and getting them serviced properly at race tracks than most people have ever learned.

Mercedes has released Heidfeld from his contract and say they will not rush to appoint a new reserve driver. But they will need someone to cover them in Spa in two weeks. Perhaps Mercedes DTM driver Paul di Resta, who is contracted to Force India and has recent F1 experience, can be on standby, otherwise they may go with someone like Jamie Green, who is also a front line star in DTM and who has long deserved a chance in F1.

But I guess with Mercedes being an all German team, they may also be thinking of a German reserve driver.

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Well, it's difficult to say that he's been missed this year but by the same account I think he's far more capable than some of the drivers on the grid right now. A safe pair of hands.


Heidfeld is a proven mediocre driver - like most of his generation, with the exception of Michael Schumacher. F1 is about the quest for excellence, so i just dont understand why teams are so tolerant of under-performing drivers. Heidfeld has had his chance, bring on the young champions of the future...... How long before i hear Jackie Steward should get a second chance..... now that i think of it would he be a great driver to lead a Volvo F1 campaign?


I actually don't disagree with you there Kenny, all I'm saying is that he's better than some of what's out there.

Again de la Rosa and Yamamoto spring to mind as two drivers who are surely less deserving of their second chances than Nick would have been.


Are you thinking Di Grassi oe Yamamoto?


I think he could do a better job in the McLaren than what Button is managing at the moment.


I disagree there.

One of the reason why the Button/McLaren combo works so well is because of the Englishness of both.

Take Alonso as an example: he is a far superior driver to Button and somehow, Button has made it work and has even shown Lewis the way to a certain extent. I believe he can communicate better than Heidfeld or any non-British driver would ever be able to. That what gave him the edge and respect at Maccas.


To name but two, yeah. I also think he'd have been a better bet for Sauber, a team he was essentially already a part of, than an aging Pedro de la Rosa.


James, is the Pirelli test car indeed the 2010 design that Stefan Grand Prix had intended to race this season? From what I understand from other sources, it's Toyota's 2009 car, which appears logical, since the 2010 model was never tested nor raced, so may have teething problems which may limit Pirelli's progress early on.


I have read conflicting claims about the 2009/2010 car as well.


"The Pirelli opportunity involves him driving the 2009 Toyota car, not the car which was designed and built for 2010 but never raced after the Japanese giant pulled out."


Heidfeld was a solid driver who always did what was needed to bring the car home - not always in the best position available, but more often than not he did a decent enough job anyway. Knowing you've got a reliable driver, with Pirelli tyre experience, with a proven track record - would be a great starting bloke for any of the new teams. Surely they'd be snapping him up?

Jonathan De Andrade


I wonder how good or bad the TF109 is! please if you can get any insight from Nick on that let us now!



From what I understand, it was a pretty underrated car.

The Toyota engine was down 0.3sec on most engines (including the Renault which was equalised with the Merc and Ferrari before the 09 season started).

It would have won in Bahrain, if it were not for a dubious race/tyre strategy.

On a personal note, I thought it was a good looking car too and liked the engine note in Singapore last year). As such my opinion might be a bit biased.

James, what's your verdict on the TF109?


A bit erratic. Compare its performance at Bahrain with Monaco. But quite good as a test car for the benchmark tracks. Engine was one of the least powerful


I honestly think Nick Heidfeld deserves a second chance in F1... In fact, I firmly believe he should have been racing this year! He may not have been Kimi quick or so, but his speed - in my opinion - is in the same level as that of David Coulthard's, Giancarlo Fisichella's and Jenson Button's to name a few: not always devastatingly quick but definitely consistent and reliable.

As for him suddenly finding an extra bout of speed after Kubica's arrival, I think it served as a wake-up call. Since 2002, he seems to have been lost and not totally focused (even during his stint at BMW Williams where he was able to match Webber). Perhaps he let McLaren-Mercedes' decision of hiring Kimi Raikkonen over him at the end of '01 affect him too much? He did express quite a lot of disappointment at the time after all and maybe he carried it over the years.

I certainly hope he gets a competitive drive next year. And although I wish him the best, I don't think this gig with Pirelli will help very much. It's one thing to test, but it's another thing to race. I certainly hope the FIA would revert back to the old system and allow more testing next year - both pre-season and in-season (perhaps limit it to 15 or 20 days during the season and at just one circuit, Paul Ricard?). That way drivers can race and at the same time refine their driving styles and cars on non-race weekends. Should this happen, it will certainly help potential returnees, like Nick, regain their form.


I agree that Heidfeld has sometimes been under-rated and is probably as good, at least latterly, as Fisichella or even Coulthard but Button is much misunderstood in my view; although I cannot defend him from the criticism of being unable to consistently over-achieve in a mediocre car when his particular gifts do not provide the solution.

As for Heidfeld's future employability, knowledge is power; and in a (fascinatingly) paranoid meritocracy like F1, any perceived advantage is amplified. For him, a test drive with a future-pointing company such as Pirelli, even in a hack of a car (sorry, it's yesterday's rules) has to be a better bet than a nominal reserve but (given the options in all truth hopefully) actual non-drive with a current team.

Mercedes was a reasonable gamble on the basis Schumacher may have returned for a single year but as that seems increasingly unlikely, whatever the merits, another route back into F1 needs to be explored.


Or Schumaker, Rafa.



james do you really think nick was just goofing off at bmw before kubica, or the car or his setup just got better about that time? doesnt seem like a professional driver would do that. thanks


Isn't it the 2009 Toyota being used?

Nick is a good driver and clearly deserves an F1 seat, but if he doesn't get one for 2011, I fear it may be over for him. I think his best chance might be Force India if Sutil goes to Renault (Liuzzi being replaced by Paul di Resta). I can't see him pairing up with Kubica again, and other teams with free spaces would want sponsorship.

Nick's problem was for most of his career he was just too quietly efficient, getting the job done without drawing attention to himself. There were undoubtedly some very impressive performances , but for some reason they just never wowed many people. Was it his understated nature which was the cause for this? And then the year BMW came good (2008), it was Kubica who shone.

Its a shame that he was so close to getting a decent car this year. It would have been nice to see him break Webber's record of most races before a first win. But even if he does get back to F1, I now suspect that will now never happen.


My mistake, it's the 2009, not 2010 car


I always liked Heidfeld, and it would be nice for him to get a drive next year.


I always like the "racers", who may not be the absolute fastest in qualy, but are intelligent and never give up and drive a good race. Brundle was like that, and of course Jenson is.

I hope quick Nick gets another go - in fact I was hoping they'd send MS away for a holiday in Spa so we could really see how he really stacks up against NH.


Likewise. I have a lot of respect for the professional racers. Only a very few can be great but I would rather the remainder of the field contain a greater proportion of intelligent, reliable and consistent talents that contribute to developmemt and our (as fans) judgment of others than an excess of fleeting chancers that would make F1 effectively a Goliaths vs. GP2/GP3/F3/whatever drivers formula.


Does he deserve another chance? Well sure, Schumacher and de la Rosa have returned to second stints in F1, but is he likely to get one and still be paid? Unlikely.

Ferrari, Mclaren, Red Bull, Mercedes, Williams and Toro Rosso have drivers under contract for next season. I would seriously doubt that Heidfield will see Lotus, Virgin, Hispania and the 13th team as attractive prospects either.

So that leaves the remaining seat at Renault (which I think Petrov has more or less sealed based on his performance and big sponsership backing), Sauber and Force India. I would say that Force India will prboably keep hold of Sutil, he's finally found his feet in F1 and is putting in some pretty convincing drives at races now. If there second seat at Force India doesnt go with Liuzzi then I would say that di Riesta will have the seat - although I guess it all depends on how much say Mercedes have in this, being the engine supplier...

So in essence, that only leaves Sauber! I reckon Heidfield and Kobayashi would be a great pairing, although it would be a shame to lose de la Rosa. Seems like a good guy who is giving it all!

Maybe Nick should look to 2012 or consider calling time on F1...


Pedro's doing a much better job than Schumi. Nick would be a good replacement at FI if they decide to call time on Tonio.


Now there's an interesting political dilemma for Mercedes! Do they promote Heidfeld (with Pirelli knowledge) or their currently favoured (and I believe talented) Di Resta into Force India, should Sutil move to Renault or Liuzzi be dropped?

Ignoring nationality, my personal view is that any of Sutil and Di Resta, Sutil and Heidfeld or Heidfeld and Di Resta is preferable to Sutil and Liuzzi.


Tonio hasn't had much luck. There's still time.


in follow up to above- seems like i also remember Jacques getting faster when allowed to use his own setup, rather than the factory's preferred set up, around that time. is my memory correct?


Actually, James has alluded that JV was in touch with Nick not because of his ability but because Nick was not giving his 100%. Basically marked down JV :(.


I'd say Ant Davidson might be the new Mercedes reserve driver. According to his Twitter page, he is already their simulator driver, so it would be a logical progression, at least in the short term.


Davidson would be a popular choice as reserve for many in the UK. I know from personal (albeit brief) conversation that Button valued Davidson highly, so without any knowledge of Hamilton's views, could Davidson to McLaren and Paffett to Mercedes be a consideration?

My limited observations of Mercedes junior reserves suggests to me that Paffett is ultimately faster than Di Resta in DTM-spec saloons but the potential, I feel, is the other way round in F1. Any views?


Paul Di Resta is the Paffett of tomorrow. One day they are news worthy, the moment something more news worthy will come up they get dropped. Ant Davidson was comprehensively beaten by Takuma Sato in Super Aguri, that tells something about Davidson. He is good with words doesn't necessarily mean he was F1 material.

& Yes you are right about Paffett/Di-Resta Comparision. With DiResta in Picture, Paffett climbed down a step in McLaren/Mercedes hierarchy, so his winning DTM race on old spec car made no news while everything/anything Diresta does in DTM gets a good coverage in F1 related media. Thats more of an indication of how important are PR skills in F1 not necessarily the driving skills...


Yes per Nick Fry Anthony Davidson is more part of that team's culture :D, Just like Gary Paffet is part of McLaren 😀


and in follow up to my initial question- i checked my english slang dictionary- and i guess i mis-used "slagging off". in america we might say goofing off and that's what i meant to say...


I've never been a fan of Heidfeld. He has never really showed any brilliance either in qualifying or in a race IMHO. It is fine that he gets this testing role, but I think he doesn't deserve a second chance racing in F1.


Drove Mark off the track in their year at Williams. Not a bad recommendation ...


Heidfeld pulled some memorable overtaking moves. I think he showed considerable verve and precision in this aspect of race craft.

Comparisons with Webber? As above but Webber has come on a lot since his Williams days.


But then he stopped driving for the team to drive with BMW. He had a sore neck or whatever. I don't buy it.


Nick = F1's Mr Reliable. Most consecutive race classifications but yet to step on the top of the podium.

Perhaps, like Rubens, he just needs to get the right car beneath him and put his considerable experience to good use. Jacques Villeneuve new team mate next season?

James, is the suggested switch to 18" wheels stopped now that Pirelli has committed to supply?


He would have won at Canada in 2008, if he hadn't let Kubica through.


Certainly for the time being


After all the speculation we can now finally get to have some clues on track if the Toyota meant for this year could have been championship winning......

Still, the Red Bulls just sprang to mind!


"But I guess with Mercedes being an all German team, they may also be thinking of a German reserve driver."

Pehaps they will form and agreement with Force India whereby if they needed to use a reserve driver, Sutil would step up to Mercedes and Di Resta would step into the Force India seat.


Certainly ups his value to a team next year.


He deserves a second chance but his beard doesn't.


Honest opinion here…I don’t think he should get a second chance at ever racing in F1 again, if you do not give it 110% all the time you should not get any chance again, this is the Kimi issues, GREAT driver only when he wanted….Nick held back to many times….speak what you want about some of the greats…most if not all give it 140% all the time..

At that level you damn well better, no excuse no regret when no one will hire a 98% guy…let him keep testing tires, maybe he does not need 100% for that.


There should be more beards in F1, not less.


Which was F1's best beard do you reckon?



Jonathan De Andrade

Emerson Fittipaldi cultivated nice sideburns!!

very nice out of topic, Im laughing a lot!!!!


Has to be John Watson for me. One should wear one's beard without regard to others. Looked like his was grown with this in mind. As is mine!


F1's best beard : Raquel del Rosario

no question


Here's a weird one for you, on the topic of beards. I've never seen the dude close-up, but does Webber have the most stubble of anyone, ever, or does he just skip on the shaving every now and then? Talk about a five o'clock shadow...


John 'Captain Birds-Eye' Watson, I reckon


Yes do a bit on f1 beards and staches!


Blond coloured beards look kind of scruffy (Jenson, Nick, Vettel, Branson).

At the mo, Ross Brawn's win.

It'd be fun to see Alonso grow one a la Sebastien Chabal of the French Rugby Union team.


None of them! Being in the public eye, they should all be clean shaven so as to look tidy. Although Mark Weber could grow a respectable beard, which would be OK if he was back home in the outback in Oz.



Has to be Jenks, unless you're restricting it to drivers only - in which case, does Jack Brabham's 40th birthday beard count? If not, then John Watson must be the winner.

Looking back, beards are actually quite rare among drivers - moustaches might actually stimulate a much more vigorous debate. Graham Hill and Clay Reggazzoni spring to mind.


Sounds like a good subject for your next post.


Jenson had an acceptable one, Nick’s looks like it’s modelled on a male monkey’s undercarriage!


I know it wasn't a beard but... Mansell's 'stache for the win.


I hope nick gets a seat. I would hire him a blink. He's consistent, reliable and easily fast enough. He scored more points than Kubica did at BMw and that says it all.


Does the fact that the Toyota Chassis is being used for out-of-season testing mean that it can't be bought up by another team for the 2011 season?


"when he suddenly speeded up by four tenths of a second per lap when the replaced Jacques Villeneuve" - should be "when they replaced". 🙂


I meant in-season testing. Sorry


Mercedes have a problem with their tyres for this season... and their former reserve driver is now the Pirelli test driver? How fortunate for them 🙂


Exactly! I bet that after 3 months of testing he will back to Merc as a reserve driver again with lots of data with him. Planned action to help Shumi.


I really hope Heidfeld gets a seat in 2011. It is a shame seeing him stood on the pit wall this season. He has proven himself against some strong teammates: Alesi, Raikkonen, Frentzen, Massa, Villeneuve, Webber, Kubica.

There is a clip floating around YouTube of some of Nick's best overtaking moves. He has pulled of some bold moves (and probably holds the record for 'most number of successful moves to overtake two cars at once').

Here's hoping he gets another crack at it in 2011.


Malysia 05 was a cool one. Webber and Ralf in the same corner. Great move indeed.


So ironic that he doesn't get to drive the Mercedes that was designed with Button in mind and might have been perfect for Nick's similar smooth driving style. And yes, his passing was always a delight - his move (on Fisi, was it?) coming out of the Monaco tunnel in the Williams, was poetry in motion.


Think it was Alonso at Monaco.

Nick made it look easy. Webber tried the same thing in the sister car a few laps later, blew the first attempt, and finally got through just avoiding overrunning the chicane


Mmmm ... I'm not sure this year's Mercedes would ever have been a great car but Button and Heidfeld would certainly have been a well matched pairing. Nice analysis, Mikey.


Very clever move from Nick. I thought when I read this story this morning that some of the midfield teams will clamber for him and give themselves a head-start on the tyres. Does he deserve another chance? Probably not. He had long enough in F1 but he was steady rather than spectacular. A reliable number two, but never a Championship contender in my eyes.


Be fair: When was he ever driving a championship-winning car? Drivers that he has outscored as team-mates have gone on to get top drives - Raikkonen, Massa, Webber - how do you know that he wouldn't have excelled in a top car?

5 second places driving middle-of-the-pack machinery is a strong performance by my book.

Yes, one of those seconds was when Kubica won in Canada, but you wouldn't dismiss Hamilton when Button beats him into second place in one race (or vice versa), and that was the only race that enough of the top cars failed to allow the BWMs a chance.

Kubica may have talked up the BMW in 2008, but realistically they were still picking up crumbs from the top table.


Voted yes, maybe going to Force India? Sutil should probably move on to a better team, perhaps Renault. I don't know what Sutil's contract is for next year though.


Wonder where M-B would be in the standings now if they'd run Heidfeld instead of Schumacher?


I'm tempted to think that Nick's smoother style would have worked better with the Mercedes than Michael's...


And the car might be further forward. Have Mercedes lost their way with development trying to make MS happy with his particular "needs" ?

Any thoughts James ? Anybody ?


I would be surprised if it was as simple as Nick going 4/10ths quicker purely because he hadn't been trying before.

Often two good drivers can push each other to get the best performance out of both of them: One driver may think they've done a perfect lap, but if it is then beaten by the other driver, they then start exploring different lines and styles to see where the time can be made up.

Peter Sauber's comment seems simplistic at best. Depending on the context in which it was made, it might be that he was using those words to try to heat up the competition between Nick and Robert and so push them even quicker...


He said it to me at a dinner in Monza, the weekend when Kubica got a podium and Schumacher retired


It's interesting that because it would explain why Sauber didn't sign Nick this year when he would have been a much logical choice over de la Rosa, who hasn't brought much in sponsorship to the team.

I remember you saying it in the commentary at the time and I never felt that the comment that Kubica gave Nick a hurry-up to the tune of 0.4 was ever justified based on the facts.

I've always felt Nick had much more raw pace than anyone gave him credit - he beat Webber, Kubica, Massa and Raikkonen fair and square over his career - so it would be fantastic to see him back next year. After all, if Jenson stayed at Brawn/Mercedes as everyone thought Nick would have been a McLaren driver now. And was looking a certainty for a Mercedes drive after Button did switch.

Force India would be the best bet for him, but I would imagine Renault would strongly consider him now given how much they struggled with the switch to Bridgestones.


I really don't believe that comment about Heidfeld suddenly picking up the pace by 4 tenths per lap. The BMW Sauber in 2006 was a good, point-scoring car. Had it been a midfield straggler, you could argue for lack of motivation but it is hard to see a professional guy like Heidfeld not trying to score as many points as possible.

The comment needs to be taken with a pinch of salt bearing in mind the context. Sauber had just brought in Kubica to replace Villeneuve, after they had tried to do so in the close season; Villeneuve had a contract however, and said so in the press repeatedly (in truth, he could have been more discreet). So the move had to wait until they had a dubious pretext of an 'injury' to Villeneuve before they could switch in Kubica at Hungary. There was therefore some bitterness about Villeneuve's exit from BMW and I think that needs to be borne in mind when we consider a comment like that from Peter Sauber.

As I recall, that was not the only time Sauber took a swipe at a former driver. I recall back in 2001, Murray Walker quoted Sauber (in ITV commentary) as telling Mika Salo (the 2000 driver) that the success of the 2001 Sauber was down to the fact they had better drivers (Heidfeld and Raikkonen). It was clear that at least part of the improvement was down to the customer Ferrari chassis they recieved, however.

In other words - don't believe everything you hear at dinners in Monza, James!


Interesting, thanks.

Of course, what does that say about Villeneuve, given that he was being comfortably beaten by a Heidfeld in 'slow' mode?


To F1_Dave:

In their races together, Nick scored 13 points to Villeneuve's 7, and where both cars finished, Nick was ahead 5 to 2.

Scoring half the points is not matching somebody.

Yes, Villeneuve was slightly ahead in qualifying, but that is Nick's Achilles Heel - seeming not to be able to bring the tyres in for a single lap (and is probably the reason that some people don't rate him - they look at the qualifying positions and don't actually watch the races!).

Incidentally, GrandPrix.com has this report of Villeneuve's last race for BMW at their home race in Germany:

"Jacques Villeneuve who not only screwed his own chances but also took off his BMW team mate while the management of BMW sat in the Paddock Club sipping cocktails."

Anyone else think that was why BMW retired him?


villeneuve wasn't comfortably beaten by heidfeld he was actually matching him & there was a few occasions over the 1st half of 2006 where villeneuve was the faster of the 2.

its intresting to also go back and see that with the exception of the monza podium, the rest of kubicas performances were no better than what villeneuve had managed.


Villeneuve was paid obscene sums of money to moan incessantly.


Often few appear to recognize that Heidfeld outscored Kubica 2-1 between 07 and 09.


Didnt he also outscore Massa when they were together as Sauber? And Kimi as well?


I think you should remember that Raikkonen went straight to F1 from one season in Formula Renault. Heidfeld had raced for Prost in F1, and had raced in F3000 and been a McLaren test driver before 2001.

Ron Dennis pointed all these things out when questioned as to why he had chosen Raikkonen over Heidfeld.


Good point, but it still illustrates that any driver capable of running with Kimi should be racing...not standing in the garage.



2001 Sauber season: Kimi 9 points, 10th in championship; Nick 12 points, 8th championship.

Although between them they failed to finish 13 races during their season together.

Of the 14 races completed, Kimi finished better than Nick just 6 times, a strike rate of 43%.

Compare this to Nick's first year in F1 when he failed to score any points.


He should be in the Mercedes team instead of the old midfield guy...what's his name again, he used to be good?



Does that mean NH isn't employed by Mercedes anymore?

Is he not going to go back to Ross Brawn and the rest of the Mercedes engineers and tell them what Pirelli is designing for next year's championship?



He has been released by Mercedes, that is correct


Its nice to see Heidfeld back in the action and I think everyone desrves a chance if they are good enough.

His consistency and experience may well bring plenty of positives to a team, especially a new one with the limited testing these days.

It does concern me though, what about young drivers getting into Formula 1. They are likely to make mistakes when young so it is unfair to compare them to a season pro but will teams still take the chance...

One interesting point is that he will have driven on these new Pirelli tyres extensively - do you think this may be an advantage for him personally and would appeal to teams looking for a driver?


I hope Nick gets another shot at F1. Personally, I would have run him alongside Rosberg in the Mercedes this year.


Hi James, Would it be possible for him to re-sign to MercF1 for next year again as their reserve/simulator driver once these tests have been completed? Could it be that he has been released with a condition? Or do you think this would not be possible/wise with todays FOTA alliances?


That wouldn't give Mercedes too much benefit as the characteristics of their chassis would be homologuated for 2011.

When and if NH would sign for them again, the other teams would have all the data that NH helped Pirelli create.

So I wouldn't think there would be any great advantage.

No sure if James has anything to add that I might have missed.


Especially as there would be very limited testing at the start of 2011. But he could help a team set the car up, weight distribution etc to get the best out of the tyres. Would be worth a month of two


Would be a shame they appoint a German reserve driver just because they are German. It seems that formula 1 is the only sport that hires people based on there nationality rather than the best person who could the job.


The quasi-no.2 at McLaren this year is a case in point.


I see him on the same level as Nico Rosberg


Never really rated him that highly. Seems to be a Darling of the German Manufacturers. Just didn't have that killer instinct to be a number 1 driver, he would be a perfect test driver though.


Would prefer to see some fresh blood in a semi-competitive car. There are so many young and hungry drivers coming through the ranks that I feel only the stand-out drivers deserve second chances.

Heidfeld has had a solid F1 career, but he isn't likely to get a car to be a WC contender. There are plenty of other challenges for him in motor-sport.


Must be Nick's fourth chance to race as an F1 driver:

1. Sauber

2. Jordan

3. Williams

4. Renault/Force India?

I think he was robbed in Canada 08 and that BMW decided Kubica should be the one winning it from a PR point of view.

He hasn't set the world of F1 alight but has more often than not outperformed, Raikkonen, Webber and Kubica when using the same machinery. With that in mind, I wouldn't want to have him as teammate next year.


If Heidfeld had not allowed Kubica through then Kubica would most likely have finished third. First and second is preferable to first and third for any team in most circumstances.


Well said!


Hi James, can you please look into the tyre development further. For example how much of the future development of this tyre will be determined by the results of data compiled by running them on the Toyota chassis?

And if it is quite significant how could that possibly effect teams heading into 2011?

Would engineers and drivers familiar with the characteristics and behaviour of that chassis have a slight advantage?

Of course I could just be bored in the break and trying to create a story in my mind where none exists!!


The results of the current testing will have a very large bearing on the specification of the 2011 tyres, of course. Any familiarity or deeper understanding of the characteristics of the tyres would be a significant advantage, when everyone else is still learning them


Hi James,

I have a couple of question about the Pirelli tyres for next year and I am not sure where to post it so here it is.

From my original understanding the current tyres have a 13inch rim size while the new Pirelli tyres will be 18inch. Firstly is this correct and if yes how will this affect the cars in 2011 with regards to aerodynamics and brake cooling? Will the guys also be able to run bigger / stronger brakes because of the increase in size or is everybody expecting it to be the same?



That's not correct. The 18 inch rims were with with Michelin. The Pirellis will be the 13 inch rims like the Bridgestones


He looks like a Bee Gee. And that's good enough for me.


Rubbish ... He looks like Ryan Gosling and you should know him from " The Notebook"


Wasn't JV known for having a fairly unique way of setting up his car? Perhaps with JV gone and Robert being a rookie more of the team set up decisions came Nicks way and he was able to get more from the car?


Good point. But Peter Sauber must have some insight into that, no ?


The lack of F1 news over the summer break is killing me!!

Ok so I'm Trying to make a story out of nothing, but won't Pirelli using last year’s Toyota at Mugello work out very nicely for Ferrari?

Didn't a lot of Toyota aero guys move to Ferrari when the F1 team closed? So with the new Italian Tires being tested on a Ferrai owned track in a car designed by people working on the 2011 Ferrari could be quite beneficial for the Scarlet team right?

I realise the use of the Toyota car makes a lot of sense given the skeleton team in place to run the car vs. for example the use of the BMW, but to me it seems clear if any team is to benefit from this session it will be Ferrari.

Will any data regarding tire wear, laptimes etc be shared either to FOTA or the general public? Or will it be kept for the Pirelli and the owners of the track as reference data?

If Schumacher or Rosberg got injured in Spa would Quick Nick be allowed to drive now? Would the other teams protest him being involved?

Has Quick Nick actually driven another F1 car with narrow front tyres? Does he provide a worthwhile benchmark?

Quick Nick deserves one last shot in F1, but where? no top drives available does he really want to have to prove himself in a mid field / new team again? Maybe just accept F1 is over for now, sign up long term to Mercedes and become part of the new look DTM in 2012 whilst praying Schumacher gets bored.


Thought I read somewhere that as a condition of being the Pirelli test driver, Heidfeld wouldn't be hirable in 2011 (because his in-depth knowledge and influence on the Pirellis would be an unfair advantage for other teams and drivers). Is there any truth to this?


There would have been no advantage to Nick agreeing to test the Pirellis if he couldn't race them so I doubt that is the case. He had been quite vocal about getting a drive next year and Mercedes mention that in their press release.

James, who do you think is in line in Mercedes need a reserve driver? I have heard Davidson and Soucek mentioned.


I'm sure NH wouldn't have done it in those circumstances.


I would suspect that would break employment laws if he wasn't allowed to look for a drive next year, as you are preventing someone looking for work in they're line of work, hope that makes sense


I can't imagine that Nick would have signed up for this test under such conditions.

Also, wouldn't such a clause not be illegal under European employment laws?


I can't think of Heidfeld without thinking of when he took out the medical car at Intelagos 2002...


So James, which teams are likely candidates for Heidfeld to be going to given that the top teams are locked out and Sauber won't want him again? Replacement for Trulli at Lotus? Petrov replacement at Renault maybe? Or Liuzzi at Force India?


Don't see any of those, to be honest - possibly Force India, but Di Resta may have a chance there. Would be a coup for Virgin, maybe?


James, Loving the website, my first port of call when surfing for f1 news. If only you could get the job of second commentator at the beeb. Anyway a bit off topic but was wondering wether a copy of the stunning photo heading your home page is avaiable? Of all the colour schemes of the current f1 cars the redbull isnt my favorite, but looking at that photo i find it hard to imagine any of the others looking better, with the exception of i think maybe darren heaths shot of a mclaren at abu dhabi last year. Cheers


It's a Darren Heath image, I believe from Hungary. Go to http://www.darrenheath.com


I've always felt that Nick was massively under-rated.

He was faster than Raikkonen in 2001 at Sauber, Faster than Massa in 2002, Pretty well matched with Frentzen in 2003 & pulled out some good runs in the uncompetitive Jordan in 2004.

In 2005 most were expected Webber to easily beat him at Williams yet Heidfeld was more often than not the faster & likely would have ended ahead of Mark in points had he not missed the final races due to the injury.

At BMW he was well matched against Villeneuve & Kubica & may well have won the 2008 Canadian GP had he not had to allow Kubica pass (Something he said on the BBC earlier this year that he regrets doing).


Mmh, what are the other teams thinking about this?

Did not Bridgestone develop their tires to the liking of the Brawn-led Ferrari team with Schumacher as the driver, so that the other teams decide to go for Michelin instead?

And now a former test driver of Brawn-led Mercedes team with Schumacher as a driver is helping to develop the new F1 tires.

Heidfeld has strong ties to the brand, he clearly will not be seen as impartial, even if he tries to be exactly that.

What happens if MS finds the new tires much more to his liking, surely this will cause some bad blood among the teams...


"As we have seen this year with Michael Schumacher’s problems at Mercedes, understanding how to get the best from the tyres is a vital part of being fast"

"That said, Heidfeld struggled with front tyre warm up in his BMW Sauber days"

Same problem?

Heidfeld was a Mercedes young driver...It will be interesting to see whether one of the Mercedes engined teams takes him next year..."

Could Mercedes GP rehire him?


Wow, nearly an hour after I started reading and replying to this thread (James, I really wish I still had the time to contribute more often but you're clearly and deservedly burgeoning without anything I can add), I'm surprised nobody seems to have commented on driving styles.

Heidfeld is rightly or wrongly regarded as having a particular tyre need. As I see it, the only evidence we truly have is his need is different to Kubica's. In other circumstances, including Kubica previously, Heidfeld has been there or thereabouts.

Sauber's comments about the comparison with Villeneuve, while doubtlessly believed, must surely be considered against both JV being an idiosyncratic (and possibly disruptive) talent and the fact he was fired! And, perhaps, that Heidfeld is not a strong enough personality to mould or lead a team.

Anyway, the point is that whoever tests the new breed of tyre will have a preferred style and whether that suits, for want of a better analogy, the Senna/Hamilton or Prost/Button approach is largely irrelevant. It is simply part of the wonderful ying and yang of F1 and it will be for the affected generation to make the best of it, just as it has had in the past to deal with changing engines (1.5 to 3 litres anyone, then 3 litres to 1.5 litre turbos??), aerodynamics, fueling and other tyre-related changes. It's why eras cannot sensibly be compared - although the older I get, the more I wish the latter eras were more easily identifiable!


Good point. Thanks for your input.


I think Nick is goign to be highly sought after by a few teams.. maybe Renault? that will something Nick will hate .. LOL


BTW James,

I was thinking you would also be on a well deserved vacation.. (too much to ask?) 🙂


I personally think that Mercedes pushed Heidfeld towards the Pirelli test driver role. Schumacher is struggling with the Mercedes this season, and has gone on record stating that he doesn't have an aggressive enough front-end, largely due to the nature of the front tyres.

It would not surprise me, considering the history of Schumacher/Brawn's forward and creative thinking, that they pushed Heidfeld towards the role, with some "suggestions", shall we say, of what they would like from the tyres for next season.

I am convinced that Schumacher will be far more of a force to be reckoned with in 2011...


I would agree but for the difference in driving styles between Nick and Michael. Surely it's a bit unrealistic to expect a driver to try to drive like someone else, even with today's simulators and technology.

And I don't really see how it would benefit Nick to create tyres that suit another driver...


One thought occurred while discussing this with a friend:

It is generally reckoned that Button and Heidfeld have similar approaches, are easy on the tyres but can suffer when trying to get them up to temperature.

What are the chances that 2011 will be a really good season for Button, given the tyres are much more likely to suit his style?


can`t belieive some peoples answered ``no`` to that question


I think Heidfeld is the most underrated driver around, and I think the Pirelli-job will give him one more chance on the grid next year.

He will replace Toni Liuzzi.


you guys all say he beat massa, raikonnen, webber..... but look at when he beat them and by how much. He beat massa in his massa's first season by a margin of 7-4 and raikonnen in raikonnen's first season by a margin of 12-9. Is that something to really brag about when each of them won on to have greater careeers than heidfeld could have ever dreamt of?

As for kubica, you have to be shitting me that he was the one that bmw favored, when heidfeld was the german racing at the german outfit, when the popular german, schumacher, had left the sport. He was the number one driver most of the time at bmw, and only when everyone found out hes shit, even with a good car, did he lose that spot

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