The Renault F1 team has been extensively restyled this season already with the arrival of Lotus and today it announced a forced change with Nick Heidfeld replacing his former team mate Robert Kubica. Although there had been speculation about the team looking at other options, it always looked likely that they would go for Heidfeld.
Heidfeld, a veteran of 172 Grands Prix without a victory, was out of work after opting to give up his secure testing contracts with Mercedes and Pirelli for a five races deal with Sauber at the end of last season. But the injuries incurred by Kubica in a rallying accident ten days ago mean that the Pole is likely to miss most if not all of the season. He had a third operation today to repair his broken elbow. Although no official time for his recovery has been given, specialists in hand surgery suggest the nerves and tendons in his right hand will require a year to heal.
“I would have liked to come back to Formula One in different circumstances, but I’m proud to have been given this chance,” said Heidfeld.
Meanwhile the team boss Eric Boullier has said that the decision needed to be taken quickly to avoid derailing what was looking like a promising season for the team. Experience was the watchword for him and his engineers with an aggressive new car to sort out and new Pirelli tyres to be understood. They might have opted for hunger in the form of Nico Hulkenberg, but have decided to play it safe with Heidfeld. He ran Kubica close in their days together at BMW Sauber and if the tyres suit his style of driving can be a very potent performer.
“The team has been through a very difficult couple of weeks and we had to react quickly,” said Boullier. “We gave Nick a chance in Jerez last week and he really impressed us. He’s quick, experienced and is very strong technically with his feedback and understanding of the car. We always said the priority was to have an experienced driver in the car and we feel he is the ideal man for the job.”