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Jerez Test Day 3 – Heidfeld stakes his claim
Jerez Test Day 3 – Heidfeld stakes his claim
Posted By: James Allen  |  12 Feb 2011   |  10:04 pm GMT  |  72 comments

Today was the third of four days of testing at Jerez in Spain and the main talking point was the appearance of Nick Heidfeld in the Renault. The German has been called in following the accident of lead driver Robert Kubica.

Heidfeld, who was out of work over the winter having given up testing roles for Mercedes and Pirelli to take up a brief race seat at Sauber at the end of last season, is hoping that the team will give him the seat left vacant by his former BMW team mate.

He set the fastest time today, a 1m 20.361 on the first lap of an eight lap run in the Renault. He covered a total of 86 laps and afterwards said, I’m very pleased. Not only with the position – that depends on various factors. But I’m happy with the job I did today, I don’t think I could have done any better. I think I already helped them to understand the car and at least give some directions, which helped over the day. But this is something you have to ask Eric [Boullier].”

Boullier was asked today why the team has not approached Nico Hulkenberg, whose test contract with Force India would allow him to leave for a race seat elsewhere. The answer was that “we want someone with experience.” This is particularly in terms of setting up and developing the R31. With the important rule changes this year and experienced driver at this stage is vital. Tomorrow Bruno Senna will get a day in the car, but you sense that Renault wanted Heidfeld to succeed today.

Renault had a few hydraulics problems today. New parts will be flown out in time for the start of play tomorrow.

Between 0930 and 1130 this morning the FIA trialled the new adjustable rear wing system on the pit straight. When the cars were within one second of each other, the relevant light came on in the cockpit of the pursuing car and the driver could ‘push-to-pass’. I’m told it all went okay.

Mercedes had Michael Schumacher in the car again. They flew out a new front wing for today. When he was asked what he made of the degradation on the super-soft compound he replied, “It’s not just the two soft compounds. It’s the
Pirellis!” There is still some work to do.

Paul di Resta had his first run in the Force India VJM04 today. He complained of brake problems all day and his spin this morning was the result of locked rears.

Additional Reporting: Tom Clarkson

1. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m20.361s 86
2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m20.493s + 0.132s 131
3. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m21.054s + 0.693s 114
4. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m21.099s + 0.738s 36
5. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m21.242s + 0.881s 84
6. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m21.574s + 1.213s 98
7. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m21.681s + 1.320s 92
8. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m21.711s + 1.350s 61
9. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m22.227s + 1.866s 99
10. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m22.945s + 2.584s 64
11. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m25.471s + 5.110s 72

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I have a question about seats and Nick Heidfeld. And safety. You hear about drivers going for seat fittings and you see the crashes they walk away from these days. So what kind of seat is Heidfeld riding in? Will they have made a new seat for him or will he be sitting in another drivers seat?


I believe the seats are effectively molded around the drivers shape. I’d assume that the support part of it is relatively standard, but the moulded bit is custom for each driver.

I think Nick said on his twitter that he had a provisional seat fitting while at Jerez.

If he gets it (which is 100% certain barring Raikonnen or someone moving from another team joining), he’ll get a proper seat fitting.


Always in his own seat


“Tomorrow Bruno Senna will get a day in the car, but you sense that Renault wanted Heidfeld to succeed today.”

Of course they want him to succeed, they have invested considerable amount of manpower and resources for the car, haven’t they? In order for all that to bring result, wouldn’t they want someone dependable they feel they can rely on?


I wonder if there will be any reactonist/alarmist articles floating around if the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix fails to produce suitably exciting racing that the prospect of new tires and other regulation changes could provide, similar to the post 2010 Bahrain GP articles. A lot of talk about the new Pirellis too, and concern of how they’ll impact the spectacle.

Perhaps some of that is due to the polemic of soft, aggresive tyres to durable, harder compound tyres and as to which is better for racing. I think the latter has already been tried, after the tyres used in 2009 which were changed at every pit stop during fuel delivery were revealed to be far too durable. The supposed virtue of these harder tyres never seemed to be realized though, assuming the premise that the lessened amount of marble build-up offline would allow for better wheel-to-wheel racing. At some stage the regulation changes over the off-season may amount to trying to shake up the established order as much as genuinely rationalized research into ‘improving overtaking’. Optimism argues that reducing the downforce levels due to single deck diffusers and more marginal tyres should genuinely help, until the engineers regain the aero again…


What’s your oppinion guys – are McLarens sandbagging again? 🙂 I remember there were a lot of comments about this same time last year.


I doubt it.. That lot do all their racing in the Press.. By the time we get to the first GP, it will be a case of “We have not fully understood the potential of our car”.. Let us hope for everyone’s sake they “understand” their car by Silverstone.


I tend to think they believe they have something really special with the MP4-26. The real sandbaggers – in my modest opinion – are Red Bull.


Maybe Renault will let Heidfeld develop the car and then let Bruno Senna participate to races because of marketing reasons…

To me that sounds as a credible option.


Hey James, I’m really keen to know whats happening at Mclaren…Their testing program seems to be a bit odd. They’ve had two days of systems checks(TWO days???), and then yesterday they did only 36 laps. Its very unlike anything that we’ve seen before from anybody. I have a feeling that they know that they’re sitting on top of a really good car or that they’ve already realised that they’ve got it all wrong.


James, how important is the number of laps the teams are getting in? As far as I can tell this is one area where Ferrari are ahead – they’ve managed to do more laps than anyone else. Obviously this means they’ve had good reliability in testing, but how much does it actually help the teams?

As far as I know the number of laps look like this:


Alonso 98

Alonso 108

Massa 78


Massa 101

Massa 116

Alonso 131

That’s a LOT of laps. Only bad day was Massa’s first day where he had that oil leak.


James just a question…

If the new Pirelli tires end up with heavy degradation in the form of klag (sp?), and that makes passing very difficult on many circuits, will they, the factory or the FIA, be likely to do anything about the problem.

It would certainly be ironic to see all the work which has gone into creating a more dynamic race environment foiled by the new spec tires.


Quite amazing the Vettel was approximately one-tenth of a second faster than webber again.

The number of times that the gap is about one -tenth is growing – it needs an explanation


The one thing about this scenario is that it does make a bit of a farce about the whole test driver thing. Renault apparently have 5 test drivers, and yet have still gone to Heidfield. The sponsors of the 5 must be wondering where their money went.


They’re in the same position they’d be in if Robert were healthy.


Good to see NH doing well. Seems like after so long without a proper job he is motivated enough to get one.

It’ll be interesting to see Bruno’s answer tomorrow. It is not only about speed but also about how much a driver can contribute to development of the car. Hard to imagine any one doing better than Nick at that.

If NH gets a job and Petrov proves himself useless this season we may as well see Kubica/Heidfeld pairing next.


Go Nick, Go. Show you are the best Roberts’mate. Make BMW experience working.:)


If I were to become President of the FIA, (yeah I know, unlikely but I can dream) I would change the very core of the sport away from engine displacement and max rpm to a simple formula of maximum flow rate per minute.

At this early stage of my theoretical rule change, I’m thinking 1.5 litres of gasoline per minute is the optimum. After that, so long as all the teams meet the safety standards etc etc, I would open up the rules to an almost “all bets are off” formula.

Formula One, like military hardware, is all about innovation and testing new ideas. Some work, most don’t. The nature of F1 nowadays is that the rules are placing a premium on “following the market” and “bums on seats” rather than innovation.

Open KERS up to an unlimited regeneration system. You can only spool up that which you’ve saved – let it truly be an innovative source of go forward. Open the maximum width of the cars to unlimited. You can only go so wide before your ackerman angles start eating away at your tyre life. Open the wings up to whatever. You can only run wings so large before the fuel flow rate hits an optimum. Open the aero package up to unlimited. The fuel flow rate again, determines an optimum.

Clearly, certain technology like the F-duct needs to stay banned, if only to stop drivers from physically having to block air holes in their cockpits all the time.

But bring back active suspension I say. Bring back an environment where the Colin Chapmans of this world can outhink, and outsmart $400 million dollar per year budgets.

If some engine manufacturer discovers that a V12 pushrod engine say, running at 10,500rpm delivers superior horsepower per litre per minute than a 2.4 litre engine running at 18,500 rpm, then let ’em run.


I completely agree! A friend and I have been discussing the fuel limit idea for a while now and think it would be a fantastic way to control the power and speed of the car without crippling innovation.


The FIA under Max Mosley were also into that idea


Not sure about the fuel flow rate being the only constraint, but I applaud and share the spirit.

If you ensure safety, cap overall spending and set a handful (say 5-6) key variables that all teams must comply with, then you’d see real innovation.


What happened to McLaren? They did so few laps. I’ve read somewhere that it was due to shortage of parts. That explanation does not sound too good to me ;-).

Re Renault – I think that’s that then and Nick’s got the seat. Though I’d still like Senna to have a chance – I think he deserves to be given one in a decent car and I’d love to see that helmet in that car (I can only remember Ayrton Senna from the 90s and even these are a bit vague memories). Yes, I’m sentimental here… 😉

I guess Reb Bull are sandbagging again, or doing some other deceptive tricks of their own. They still look solid and I’m sure there’s still more to come from them.

Ferrari seems really reliable. They did huge amount of laps over the last three days. And it was nice of Alonso to put a picture of Kubica’s helmet on his own. That doesn’t suit his villain image at all, but I like it :).


I was at the Jerez circuit on Saturday, and the Spaniards came in hundreds and thousands to see Fernando Alonso in action on a pleasantly warm and sunny day. And someone had the idea to place Team Lotus next to Lotus Renault in the paddock. I wasn’t aware that FOM (or whoever decides these things at a testing circuit) had a sense of humour.


Lucky you :). On Lotus vs. Lotus – I’ve read recently a comment by Mark Webber, who apparently referred to one of the Lotus teams as “Renault or Enstone or Lotus car, whatever it’s called”, so I guess everybody’s a bit ironic about the whole situation.


For me, the stand out performance of the day is Heikki in the Lotus. Faster than both the Williams and Force India who both completed more laps. He is closer to Lewis Hamilton than Hamilton is to Heidfeld and the same difference to Hamilton that Hamilton was to Alonso.

It would be useful to have a breakdown of all of his laps to know how often he was hitting close to that time window, but it looks good that Lotus will have graduated to the mid field and the Class B will have just 2 contending teams.

However, going back to the McLarens, I have a feeling they have adopted a different approach to the testing. There is no doubt they are running the most unorthodox car this year. I have a feeling that they are slowly implementing their technology on to the car so they can better understand it to simulate it. There is no doubt in my mind that the reason they used the 2010 car in the first test was to try out the unknown Pirellis on a known platform. This enables them to have more reliable data to feed back to their simulators as they know that any unexpected results are just to the tyres rather than just to any radical new feature on the car.

Following this logic through to its conclusion; their car has a very unusual aerodynamic shape. It would make sense to test this out with more conventional technology else where on the car. The talk is all on where their exhaust exits. Is it at the front, is it at the back. Two sets of exhausts have been spotted but neither look to have enough heat shielding. They could be switching between the two. There could be an entirely different exit that has not been spotted. There is also KERS and the moveable rear wings, all new quantities in terms of simulation and understanding.

These tests are not just about checking the cars work and refining them; they are also about collecting data for the simulators. The simulators are the most important part of developing an F1 car now that the testing is heavily restricted. The better your simulator, the better you can develop during the season.


I am also impressed with the Lotus, but I think it’s a bit early to say that Virgin and Hispania will still be stuck in ‘class B’. Virgin has done much less mileage compared to Lotus and Hispania haven’t even run their car yet. Also, Kovalainen’s lap could have been a low fuel qualifying-style run, and there’s no way of knowing the true pace in testing.


I guess Nick has it. So why run Bruno tomorrow if he has no chance of the drive?


To give Senna some time behind the wheel of a decent car, so that should he have to fulfill his position as reserve driver he won’t be unfamiliar with the car.



exactly my thoughts


Maybe there are some contractual obligations for the team to give him time in the car as the teams reserve driver?


to replace petrov


Firstly to give him experience in case they want him

Secondly, to give Petrov a boot up the backside to show that even though he has a contract, if he fails to improve then look who we have sitting waiting

Thirdly, because it may not be that simple, I’m guessing that if they go with Hidfeld then they want everyone to think that he is the best and brilliant hence going for time sheet topping times. So the times are probably not all what it seems. Well, we know that the Renault isn’t faster than the Ferrair and Red Bull, so we KNOW it isn’t what it seems and that Hidfeld was running light and/or softer.

They also probably want to run Senna JUST IN CASE, they have underestimated him and he averages 2 tenths a lap faster. Yes, unlikely, but given the other advantages (see above in my post), running him to see where he fits in may be quite important.

THe mere fact that they have said ‘Hidfeld was great’ but didn’t add on ‘and so we are interested in what he can do during the year for us’ says that they want to test everything out. If Hidfeld was that great, then they would have said so given that they have already sent the effort to talk about him and the test.

Senna, while unlikely, can’t be written off yet and his times and knowledge (about rather good) need to be seen first.

Chris of Adelaide

So they have a reserve drive if anything was to happen two nick or petrov during the season. They would need someone who had actually driven the car before.


Senna is not a contender for the drive but Renault need their 3rd driver to have experience with the Pirelli tyres, KERS and the adjustable rear wing. I hope he does well so perhaps he can get some friday practice sessions during the season and put pressure on Petrov.


I was at the test today and early on Schumachers engine didnt sound very healthy although it seemed to improve during the day. Schumacher also seemed to be a bit slippery on his tyres.

Renaults engine sounded quite different than the others (hard to describe, but almost like a grinding / whining sound in slow corners).

Overall a good day with a high number of laps run by most, though dont know what happened to Hamilton as he seemed to spend long periods in the garage.


Merc should fix the engine and give MS a good car. The current car seems like a dog.


What’s wrong with the engine. It’s one of the best on the grid.


The exhaust placement can have an effect on how the engine sounds, last year’s Mclaren was singularly unique.


By naming Pirelli, it sounds as if Schumacher is hoping they will feel pressurised into making more durable tyres.

I hope they don’t.


i see that di resta has commented on the marble issue i mentioned after yesterdays session and believes it will hurt overtaking-

i cant believe more have not made a comment considering how much junk is been thrown offline. when i was at the track on thursday/friday after about an hour the edges of the circuit was covered with tyre debris.

heidfeld certainly earned his opportunity today and it snice to see him get another shot with what will hopefully be a front running team.

pitty for bruno but if he does well tomorrow maybe he will get to run some friday practice sessions and show what he can do in a better car than he had a year ago. be intresting to see how he runs tomorrow.



spot on about the off line marbles. Pirelli should have gone the other way – very hard wearing. Although at this stage, its hard to tell if they can make a decent tyre. All the tyres fall apart quickly *and* don’t offer much grip doing it.


Pirelli is building the tires they were asked to build.


The marbles are only going to be an issue at the end of races.

During the Bridgestone/Michelin tyre war, there were always marbles at the end of the grand prix.

People complain initially and will accept change without to much fuss once they get used to it. Just remember the critics with the areo rules for 05, the move to the V8 engines, the frozen engine formula, the 09 areo rules and so on and so forth.

The marbles will sort out the great from the good drivers. Consistency and patience will be rewarded, which is one of the aspect I like to see in F1.


The marbles are only going to be an issue at the end of races.

During the Bridgestone/Michelin tyre war, there were always marbles at the end of the grand prix.

People complain initially and will accept change without to much fuss once they get used to it. Just remember the critics with the areo rules for 2005, the move to the V8 engines, the frozen engine formula, the 09 areo rules and so on and so forth.

The marbles will sort out the great from the good drivers. Consistency and patience will be rewarded, which is one of the aspect I like to see in Formula 1.


based on what i saw at the test the marbles ar enot going to only be an issue at the end of races, there going to be a big problem after about 10 laps.

within about an hour of the test days the track was littered with marbles and that was only with 2 or 3 cars doing laps.

there wasnt just small bits either,there was some huge chunks of rubber.

the amount of marbles i have seen have been more than i have ever seen before at any race track. the closest i have seen in an f1 race would be the 2006 canadian gp which after half distance turned into a single line affair with nobody even trying to move off the racing line and i fear were going to see a lot more of that this year.


james, who looks the fastest and more consistent at this stage of testing? And when will it be more clearer whos in what order?


It has to be the RBR. They are evolving from having the fastest single diffuser car in 2009 and the fastest (by a mile) car in 2010.

During the first three days in Jerez, they seem to be the only ones posting long (12-14 lap) stints with low-to-mid 1.21s on average. Their drop off in times from the early to the late laps is the smallest. They keep being the fastest through the speed traps at the fast corners. And like James and others have said, their superiority in traction and acceleration after the slow turns is noticeable without a stopwatch and even to the untrained eye.

For the sake of fun and competitive racing, I hope I am wrong… but it looks like Newey is back with another monster.


P.S: MS is also the most consistent. Apologies for missing this part of the reply in my previous posting.


MS is the fastest driver. Redbull, Ferrari and McLaren have the fastest cars (in that order)

Everything will be crystal during the qualifying session of the first GP


Nice to see Nick doing well. I hope he gets the seat.

Williams finally got a decent number of laps in, but even more KERS problems. Sheesh. Still, at least they have a driver in the car who doesn’t bin the car on a regular basis.

McLaren don’t seem to have done an enormous amount of running as of yet either. Do you have any idea what they’re supposed to be doing, James? Systems checks (still)?


Excluding Maldonado, right? He wrecked his fair share racing up the ranks and has been tasting gravel in testing.

I predict many, many sleepless nights for the Williams mechanics repairing his car.


well they could have major problems then as Im sure new regulations state mechanics have to clock off at a certain time, so no more all nighters….

Might be wrong in that, James will keep me right 🙂


Good remark 🙂 I guess we’ll have to start calling them “18-hourers”

My points stands, though. Remember Petrov last year? It would not surprise me one if Maldonado were even worse.


That’s right it’s in the rules


I’m not sure why Renault haven’t confirmed Heidfeld will race for them, as it is obvious now after a stellar display from Nick.

I don’t get why people had been talking about Hulkenberg or even more ridiculously Raikkonen – Heidfeld is the obvious contender and has been completely overlooked for years. He hasn’t got the outright speed of a Vettel, Alonso or Hamilton, but he’s not far off. I would put him in the 2nd tier along with Rosberg, Webber, Button, Barrichello, Massa category in terms of pace. His intelligence and craftiness in races and his overtaking is often overlooked, and paradoxically his consistency is perceived negatively.

None of the major team bosses would dispute that Heidfeld is fast and an excellent racer, so why has he struggled to find a seat the last two seasons? James, can you shed any light on this?

It looks like the tyres are suiting his style and Renault are indeed behind him, so I am very hopeful of a race win for Nick.


I agree 100%. Ive always contended that Heidfeld has never had a really good car to show what he can do. Consistently solid seems to be his lot in F1. I would love to see him in a top flight team with a winning car.


Why would Raikonnen be considered ridiculous? He’s faster than Nick Heidfeld on any day hands down. Nick might be a better tester, but if they are trying to find a team leader to gain points I’d pick Raikonnen anyday.


He has been out of the sport for over a year now and I’m not sure his heart would be in it either.


Kimi doesn’t actually like F1. He hates all the media shenanigans.


There was bad blood with Genii last season


I agree


I’m a big Heidfeld fan, but I think you answered your own question, Paul: “he hasn’t got the outright speed.” His exemplary consistency would make him a great tester, but to win races, he has to learn to push the car much closer to (and sometimes over), its breaking point.

Look at Vettel’s record of breakdowns last year vs his teammate – were the failures just bad luck or are they indicative of a driver pushing beyond the limits? I think the latter and that’s what truly separates the men from the boys.

I hope that Nick makes the best of this great and unexpected opportunity – his passing skills should make him a worthy contender if the car is quick enough.


When the big teams have had open seats they’ve generally had better options (I seem to recall Heidfeld was at least rumored to be in contention for Kovalainen’s former seat at McLaren, but they were able to get the reigning world champion), and most of the other teams have generally been forced to find drivers with sponsorship backing. I think it’s as simple as that.


Hes w/o a race win in something like 170 GPs over 10 years. Hes not overlooked, hes been in F1 for a long time. He may not have had a chance in one of the top cars but if he was special enough, something would have happened by now. Webber and Button have gotten lucky in recent years but the trend of late is to look for the young, up and coming star over the experienced veteran. As an Alonso fan, I despise him because his defensive driving always bottled up Alonso in so many races. Hes not as bad as a Trulli Train but its similar. He’s solid but not special. Hes only called Quick Nick cuz it rhymes LOL. I do feel bad for him because I feel he could have won in Canada ’08. Unfortunately for him, it became Kubica’s sole win instead of breaking Nick’s poor streak.

Chris of Adelaide

I think the reason he has struggled to find a seat, along with some other drivers (hulk this year comes to mind), money talks….If it comes down between two guys, they guy with the multi million dollar backing will always win…Kinda sad in a way, but that is formula one and why we love it.


I have a bad feeling about this rear wing thing. It’s too complicated, it’s hard to explain, and it’s artificial. It’s just doesn’t seem to be about driving. More like video-gaming.

Maybe they’re working toward having the races in the simulators. That would certainly be greener than flying all the teams and the A-listers all over the world.


I completely agree about the rear wing. It devalues overtaking.


Be careful what you wish for! Generally people wanted overtaking and now it looks like it might become too easy. If the top teams can get past the midfield runners easily it takes away a crucial ingredient of racing. I’d rather see Hamilton, Alonso, Vettel etc wasting a few laps behind a Force India and then finally pass and make a charge, rather than it be at the flick of a switch.


ANd if you think about each GP, you think about the winner, the big events and the best overtakes. You don’t remember the overtakes where someone passed another off the line or down the massively oversized straight on the latest tilke-a-drome- do you? You remember Hakkinen passing Schumacher past Eau Rouge or Kobayashi banzaing down the chicane at Suzuka.

Frankly, I think that this is just going to be like watching text on a screen.

Webber lap 1:26.3

Hamilton lap 1:26.5

Button lap 1:26.8

Buemi change tyres: soft

Algasauri lap 1:17.1

Petrov lap 1:18.1

Vettel pass Alonso

Vettel lap 1:26.3

Alonso lap 1:26.6

MIght as well read the GP just like that…

Plus it will look bloody silly with nothing happening until the last time they can use it before the finish line, everyone will hit the button then and you’ll see 2 pass 1, 4 pass 3, etc.. Bloody hopless

OVertaking should be something of a combination of guts, determination, skill, and balls of something stronger than carbon fibre. It should have finess and make you think… wooow. Instead it’s just going to be something that happens along with everything else in a race… just another facit, nothing in paticular, and that is what I think will damage F1.


I have the same fears, but will give it the benefit of doubt and wait till the beginning of the season. Nevertheless I think it can lead to a situation where skills and driving itself isn’t that important as it starts reminding PlayStation games or whatever else. I think there was a conversation about it not long ago here. We still have to wait and see though.


Your armchair and playstation isn’t hurtling along a straight at 200 mph though, it’s another thing to get wrong and give a variable, bit like missing a gear nack in the day IMHO


I have no PlayStation 😉 – anyway, it was just a comparison as I tried to reflect my fears, not saying it’s exactly the same ;-). I’m only afraid it might “devaluate” overtaking and facilitated overtaking might diminish the role of skills (whether skills to overtake or to defend one’s position). We will see however. I’d really like to be wrong here.

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