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Heidfeld speaks openly about Renault chance and his plan B
Heidfeld speaks openly about Renault chance and his plan B
Posted By: James Allen  |  20 Feb 2011   |  1:01 am GMT  |  11 comments

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.

Heidfeld: Back in business (Photo: Lotus Renault GP)

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.”

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I find it interesting reading about Heidfeld earlierin the year. It’s ironic that his big chance with Renault ended up ending his F1 career rather than revitalising it.

It’s shame. I like Nick. He probably deserved more success than he managed ot attain in F1. But their are so many big talent younsters around now, his time has come and gone.


…the Quick returns…excellent, his intelligent comments always inform.

If the adjustable wing works to provide the illusive passing opportunity why not implement the possibility on at least two other locations around the track thus reducing its’ effect from an imposed gimmick to a more integrated element in the “natural flow” of the race.

Also, don’t suggest that this is an excessively technical proposition as we all know data acquisition and interpretation can be handled and presented for human advisement at nearly instantaneous, and error free, speed.

If it works, let’s use it.


I think the initial thinking may have been about earning the right to use the adjustable wing. I recall being within 1 second for a couple of sectors, e.g. more than the 3 blue flags that a backmarker gets.

Also the aerodynamic benefit will be mostly felt at high speeds, so if a passing opportunity occurs on a short straight it would be full KERS until the it is clear which way the pass is likely to play out.


There’s much talk but not a lot of information around the new tyres, especially in their latest incarnation. Nick is honest enough to say that they changed a great deal after he stopped testing them.

Good luck to him. I feel so sorry for Kubica of course (and not only as I would have had him as one of my Fantasy drivers). I thought he might have pushed the expected front runners more than a little. If he misses the whole of the season then the F1 he returns to might be something very different.

Any chance of an in-dept appraisal of the Pirellis after the testing, James? Not to mention how the other changes are concerning the teams?

With warships going through Suez, Bahrain is almost certainly going to be cancelled so this will help the teams to a great extent – especially McLaren it would seem – at least enough not to make fools of themselves in the first race.


Great to see Nick in F1 again. It’s no surprise to hear he particularly enjoys the wheel-to-wheel aspect of the sport; he is, after all, one of the most accomplished overtakers of recent years.


It’s fantastic to see Heidfield back. Surely most people in F1 will agree that Renault has made the right choice. This year’s Renault showed some potentials to take the fights to Ferrari & Redbull. They are neck and neck with McLaren (if not ahead) as far as the testing results go. The thing I don’t understand is that why Kubica thought that Liuzzi would be the right choice for the job. Could it be intimidation I wonder or any problems from Saubar days!!! Good luck to Heidfield for 2011. Germans will dominate the field in numbers this season again. Great for the German racing.

Anyway, who is the reserve driver now for Mercedes?


The new Mercedes Reserve driver is Karun Lotus Chandhok :<(

OH you are being serious? Good question, if I were them maybe Delarosa? Mclaren just denied he will go back to them. Very good tester, very bad racer. He could be testing with Pirelli? I do not know, does that mean he can not be a third driver aswell?


I see four levels of fierce competition (from fastest -> fast):

1. Red Bull vs. Ferrari

2. Mercedes GP vs. McLaren vs. Renault

3. Williams vs. Force India vs. Torro Rosso vs. Team Lotus vs. Sauber

4. Virgin vs. HRT


Well, this season didn’t started and there are much shaking on many levels.

What worries me most is that too many new things are coming in one season. KERS, modified rear wing, and also new pirelli tyres – this is much for each driver, and I’m afraid instead of being better, the show will actually deteriorate into repeatable spectacle of driver errors and plague of accidents. Pure racing is likely going to be a major victim. Yes, I’m pessimistic.


I thought we were supposed to be moving away from overtaking only being possible via pit stops? All they really do is create a “fake” race and allow some cars to run in unrealistically high positions for a short period of time courtesy of bizarre strategies.

Overtaking on the track is what should be thrilling about F1, not passing another car whilst it is stationary which is about as thrilling as sitting in a traffic jam.

Some serious thinking (e.g. limited ground effect or overboost) will have to take place if comments such as this and those by Alonso prove to be true and there is still very little overtaking on track.


What IS thrilling is when the car leaves the pit more or less at the same time as the other is crossing the start/finish line. The fight onto turn 1 can be awesome. (Italy 2010 anyone? Among many others in the past?)

Technically it was an overtake on the track. But I like to think of it as a branch in the many pitlane overtakes. It was all about the in/out laps as well as the pit crew.

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