F1 Winter Break
Qualifying stats show the job Senna must do
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 Aug 2011   |  3:59 pm GMT  |  86 comments

Although there appears to be a commercial dimension to Renault’s decision to replace Nick Heidfeld with Bruno Senna, it is also based on performance. The German was outqualified 8-3 by Vitaly Petrov and although he has performed slightly better in races, as you would expect relative to an inexperienced driver, this is clearly not in line with what Renault management was expecting.

It’s hard for a driver to come into a team mid-season, but the team has said they expect Senna to be on Petrov’s pace by Singapore. As for this weekend, I’ve commissioned some stats from the leading stats man in F1, Sean Kelly, to give an indication of the task facing Bruno Senna in qualifying in Spa and Monza, in comparison with Petrov to find a realistic expectation.

Heidfeld was on average 0.490s slower than Petrov on the occasions when he was behind, so that is the target Senna is aiming for on Saturday here in Spa and in Monza.

Heidfeld’s performance relative to his team mate compares badly with the Rosberg-Schumacher comparison and the Alonso-Massa comparison above, both of which are also one-sided qualifying situations (10-1 in both cases).

But it compares even worse to the performance of Petrov versus Kubica last season.

Kubica was on average 0.754s faster than Petrov, who was then a rookie, last season.

Speaking in the Spa paddock this afternoon, team boss Eric Boullier explained the decision for the first time, “Every session, every weekend, the media jump on me asking why Vitaly is faster than Nick,” he said. “I was not very happy with the pure speed of Nick and his global performance as an experienced driver, that is it. His leadership didn’t work in the team and when you are sometimes slower than Vitaly, in fact most of the time slower than Vitaly, it is difficult for him to push the team and to settle himself as the team leader.”

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Heidfeld was held up in traffic in Q1 in Australia, also in China Nicks qualifying was compromised by Petrov's renault breaking down on the track.

So the gap is probably less than that in reality.


Sorry James, but for the first time I can't really follow you on this.

There is sufficient data to show that Heidfeld's qualifying performance was bad compared to other driver pairings - fact!

But your final conclusion is solely based on speculation. No one knows how Kubica would have performed this year compared to Petrov.

I'm really surprised you came up with this speculative article!


I think the point is we've got the data, and as readers of this blog James and all the other readers respuct us enough to let us draw our own conclusions.

For my money I think VP has done a pretty good job this season, considering the disruption and they got rid of the correct driver. Nick has reached his maximum, if we're honest this is as good as he's ever been.


he is talking about last season. Read it again.


I would have thought that last year sets a baseline for Petrov's ability as compared against the 'gold standard', Kubica.

This year's racing then compares Heidfeld with Petrov -- Heidfeld showing himself to be even further behind the pace of Kubica than Petrov; even though we have not seen Petrov and Kubica race against each other in the same car. It seems logical therefore for Renault to give another driver the chance to compare himself against the 'control' driver, Petrov.


You have a point but Petrov has taken a huge step forward in consistency this year. Nick may not have been as fast as Kubica would have been in comparison to Petrov but simply stating that kubica was .xx faster than Petrov last year means nothing in reality in terms of heidfeld vs petrov this year since Kubica and Petrov never got a chance to really go head to head in THIS year's car. Ignoring the year of improvement he has had, there are still too many intangibles that throw out any comparison between this year and last year other than Petrov has improved significantly in not stuffing the car into the barriers every other weekend off of unforced errors.


Can we realistically say that Heidfield would have been over a second slower than Kubica? I think that last paragraph was a little reductive and insulting towards Nick.

So many assumptions have been made. We're assuming that Kubica would have done a better job this season than Heidfield. Perhaps the car has unclear underlying issues which prevent it from getting ahead of Mercedes and challenging the top three.

Also Petrov appears to have got himself up to speed and to grips with the car. He's had a year to acclimitise to the F1 paddock and team, he has had unbroken motor racing for several years now whereas Nick hasnt had that luxery.

I'm a big fan of both Bruno Senna and Nick Heidfield, I just feel that Heidfield is being unfairly treated by the team, journalists and fans. People are only seeing what they want to see, not the bigger picture.



Many people are stating Petrov is _____ slower than Kubica. If ___ isn't the same time faster than petrov now then they are slower than Kubica. Completely forgetting that Petrov has most probably improved.

In Hungary last year Petrov outqualified Kubica form memory. Petrov has the speed but isn't getting it that much. If he is becoming more consistnat without losing the speed then he could flip the entire situation.

I agree that Heidfeld is being a bit harshly treated, but saying that Senna deserves a chance and I hope he can make the most of it.


Nick problem is he was expected to perform at certain level, which he, in the eyes of his bosses failed to reach.

His principals are not happy with him, tough, but it is a demanding job. While possibly you and me can have a bad day at work and nobody notices, here there is nowhere to hide and there's not much use in blaming the tools.



Qualifying is fine if you turn those positions into points,(at the pointy end of the grid obviously more so)and Heidfeld is 5-2 up on race day when both cars have finished.

Problem is, the Renault's getting slower compared to development from rival teams, Why are we not hearing Frank Williams publicly lambasting his drivers,they need the money as much as Renault do.

And sorry you can't use an ambiguous statement like "Although the cars are different" and then use stats from last year, thats like chalk and cheese when you take into account the dynamics of the cars this year.

Has Massa out scored Alonso? Schumacher out scored Rosberg? Or Webber over Vettel ? No they havn't, but Heidfeld has over Petrov, His race day is better than his qualifying thats all that matters. You don't get points for qualifying.


Why are you showing the averages conditional on Heidfeld being behind? Its misleading. eg. Heidfeld could have been 3 seconds behind in one qualifying only, but ahead in the others, giving a mean gap of 3 seconds. Its misleading. We need to see the unconditional averages.


I'm not really a Heidfeld fan in any way (I'm amblivient really - ie, I don't care either way), but I think that's stretching it a bit...

you never know, Kubica might not have got on with this years car at all - I'm not sure you can make those kind of assumptions from those figures.


That's a fascinating insight into the differences between teammates, would be great to see all the teams results. We be interesting seeing the McLaren and Sauber results. Daresay Lotus and Force India could be rather telling stories of the season so far too.

With Spa considered one of the all time great tracks, how much of an ask is it for a driver to come in and perform on such a demanding circuit? Especially with all the new car details this year to get a handle on. What would be considered the best track to get back into the seat for and what would be the worst (although I'd assume Monaco would be this one).


Being a hero on Saturday is irrelevant. This is Formula 1, points are won and lost on Sundays. And Heidfeld got more than Petrov. What makes Renault think Senna will get any more?

Indeed, if at the end of the season (Assuming Renault gets away with replacing Heidfeld) Senna has been outscored by Petrov over the races he's appeared in, Renault GP will look like idiots.

Incidentally, I can scarcely believe Renault are willing to allow their brand to be tarnished by continuing to be associated by Boullier's nonsense.


Dude, Renault were expecting more from Heidfeld. They were expecting Vitaly to make mistakes. He is still a rookie compared to Heidfeld.

By putting Bruno in Nick's car, they are getting some monye and also testing a driver's capabilities. They saw what Nick can do. If in half a season Nick could only have couple of points ahead of Vitaly, then is time for a change.

Ofc they know Bruno is not going to outperform Vitaly, but at least they get some money and see what Bruno is made of.



Well Bruno has done very well (FP1 error aside) so far, so let's wait and see.


PS. If you need help interpreting data in the future, I'd be more than willing to assist. I am a qualified and practising statistician, so if my response comes across as a bit harsh, it's only because this article is personally relevant to me.


I reckon he's got a few numbers in his phone book already!


I have to echo the other comments here. Not a Heidfeld fan either, but when stats are presented in such a one-dimensinal way, they can be misleading.

The 1 second gaps at Aus, Chn and Gbr could be anomalies (my memory doesn't serve me well). If this was the case, then that makes the other times differences seem very reasonable.x

Furthermore, for once James, your writing and presentation has let you down. The body of the analysis doesn't match the title of the article. While the title suggests what kind of performance Senna must make, the analysis seems to suggest that dropping Heidfeld was the right decision.


I think James was simply bringing food for thought. No more no less BUT in terms of average gaps between the drivers I think this is important and on subject and shows the around about average between team mates in a team. Should Senna have a significant gap between Petrov well beyond other team mates then the questions will be asked considering they have the vehicle.

I for one am hoping he goes well and I like the idea of driver movement throughout the year as it brings another element to the game. imo.


Saturday will show us how much more Bruno can squeeze out of the Renault package.

Sunday will be his chance to show us whether he deserves a permanent seat at a mid-field team.

Spa is a circuit that sorts the men from the boys. Even more so if it rains.

I'd say the pressure is back on Vitaly this weekend.


It's really sad teams don't respect contracts and everything then goes down lawyer avenue. What kind of environment would Heidfeld be in if he wins the court matter. I wouldn't want to drive -or trust- in a team that has sacked me. This matter will end with some extra cash in Heidfeld's pockets. Renault GP is not a true racing team, it's a financial operation since Geni capital acquisition. I have never liked Renault in the old days, nor its production cars. This year they appeared in the grid with that flashy livery trying to gain market on consumer choice. The Senna deal seems more of a publicity stunt and relive memories of old fans seeing the yellow with green and blue helmet on a black and gold car. Shame on Lotus Renault as Bruno is light-years away from his uncle's speed. Rubbish...


So if Bruno keeps the difference withn 0.4 sec for Spa and Monza.. he will be impressing people at Renault..


If he does that I'll be impressed. I hope he does!


Why not show us the difference between Kubica and Heidfeld when they were in the same team?

This Lotus-Renault team is a joke!


Good luck Bruno, you deserve this chance to show what you can do.


Senna's "qualifying" will be how much cash he brings relative to Petrov.

Sticking with forward exhausts even though they are no use next year = no money

Regular changes of ownership = no money

Black & Gold colours as they have limited sponsorship = no money

Dumping leading point scorerer when chasing constrictors points = no money

Two pay as you go drivers = no money


You do realise most of that makes no sense.

Sticking with forward exhausts = they are fine this season and they obviously think they are better. If they weren't better they wouldn't bother banning them.

Regular changes of ownership = Regular?

Renault to GENII at the end of 2009

Benetton to Renault start of 00's.

Neither were to do with this driver change, and there were 2 WDC's in the middle of those 'regular' changes.

Force India

Sauber (-> BMW -> back to Sauber)

Virgin (Marussia)


Williams' 'partnership' changes and selling of stock

Mercedes (BAR early 00's -> Honda -> Brawn -> Mercedes-Benz)

All of the teams above have made more ownership changes or made an ownership change more recently than than Renault.

Black & Gold colours sa they have limitied sponsorship = ???? You do realise the black and gold scheme is BECAUSE OF SPONSORSHIP. THe 2010 livery was different and was only used for 1 year because in 2011 they got the current one BECAUSE OF SPONORSHIP.

They have sponsorship from Group Lotus, Renault, TW Steel, Snoros bank and Lada to name the major ones.


Dumped leading blah blah = 2 points ahead is technically the lead, but if he wasn't the right fit for the team, or so, daring thought, they believe that Senna after 4 or so races could match Petrov and improve given he is still inexperienced as opposed to Heidfeld who wont improve as he has been doing it for 11ish seasons.... THen maybe? Bollier has said he expects Senna to on pace with Petrov by Singapore in 3 races time. Heidfeld was 2 points ahead, so they obviously think that while there may be a shortfall this season, if Kubica doesn't return, Senna would provide a better service than Heidfeld next season.

Simple logic, makes sense, Force India did a similiar thing in 09 with Fisi and was part of the reason Fisi went to Ferrari and retired, because he knew that he wasn't getting his contract renewed becuase FI had Liuzzi in the wings. Liuzzi then was dumped because of Di Resta. Alguersuari came in and wasn't matching Bourdais' pace at mide season 09, but because he was inexperienced STR thought Algersuari would be a better driver in the longer run, which is why Red Bull put him into their driver programme.

You are ignoring basic logic to adhere to your own pessimistic illogical view of circumstances.

Two pay.... = Not really. Petrov brings sponsorship from Russia, and is improving and has a 2 year contract not an 'as you go'.

Senna is bringing no money says Bollier, sure you're taking his word, but at no point did he even suggest. Added to that Senna is the 3rd driver, if Renault wanted money before they would have chucked him in earlier. Mid season break, un happy with one driver, put in 3rd driver. Not uncommon in F1 by any means.

0/5 for you.

And as for the first dig, qualifying being how much money? You're suggesting they will meme one of their cars to ensure the driver that brings more goes faster? How will this help constructors, that brings money. I doubt any team deliberately stops a car purely for money purposes. WDC yes, help one driver, but stop the other for money doubt it.



You saved me a LONG time replying to the OP! Thanks!


F-ducts and double defusers are not a fair comparison, as there is a clear performance benefit to having it either. Eric Boullier came out and said the rear facing exhausts gave comparable performance to the front facing ones (check Autosport). I suspect they went back to save development, not advance it. I just don’t have any faith that they really are developing their car. By contrast McLaren continue to develop their exhaust system knowing it will be no use next year because they have the funds and the determination to get to the front again (or perhaps their sponsors demand it?).

GENII’s take over has been on a phased basis, not one clean event. There was also speculation that Lotus would take an ownership share, perhaps they still will one day. There have also been rumours of their lack of cash for a while, this website even had an article on it last year.

The free advertising is for the cigarette company. Many will look at the car and see JPS, not Lotus.

You’re right there is a difference between literally paying for the seat (as you say, like HRT) and bringing the sponsors, but really it still means money rather than merit got you the drive and I place Petrov in this group.

I simply cannot agree that Red Bull, McLaren, Mercedes, or even Sauber have picked their drivers on the same cash to talent basis as Renault Lotus. To compare how Petrov got his drive to Alonso is stretching the case too far. I honestly believe all the drivers at McLaren, Red Bull and Mercedes (and Kobayashi) are there on merit.

I also would not compare end of season changes to mid season changes because the new driver gets so much more time to get up to speed with the car, which has been an issue in these limited testing times. Liuzzi got fired at the end of the season. Raikkonen got fired post season too. I was a big fan of his and I don’t like (but respect) Alonso, but even I have to admit it was not the money from Santander that got Raikkonen replaced. The best parallel I can think of would be axing Bourdais mid season, but Torro Rosso are a strange team and I think the man who replaced him went on to do quite well!

All that said, Senna was impressive today and I’m happy for him. Very difficult to come in mid season and perform like that, especially after a crash on Friday. I have new respect for him and I hope he goes on to do well. He was unlucky at Brawn and poorly treated by Hispania. You can’t help but feel for the guy in that situation, but when Yamamoto out qualified him by a second though I lost faith in him and assumed he didn’t have the talent. More days like today will no doubt win over other skeptics like me.


They ran rear facing exhausts and found then similar in pace. Given the [front] ones will be no use next year, it makes no sense to continue with them for similar performance unless they can't afford to develop the rear facing ones. That would be a logical change as we near the end of the season.

The team is not owned by Renault any more and I was referring to the changes in ownership since 2009. Phased takeover, followed by complaints about the cost, looking for investment parters, will Lotus come in and buy it or not, then this latest investment from Brazil. However, you comparison over the longer term still proves my point, as every change of ownership you list came down to money.

If they had more proper sponsors the car would not give free advertising to a cigarette brand. If Total gave them more money we would be looking at another red car on the grid.

Given the public comments by the boss last year on Petrov I think it fair to call him a pay driver. You may disagree, but I don't think he would have the drive without his sponsorship.

Constrictors position is worth money at the end of the season. Despite poor qualifying, Nick brought in more points than Petrov. I believe bringing in Senna will mean less chance of winning points and I think they only accepted this because of the extra sponsorship Senna brings.

I think it naive to believe Senna has brings no money. Brazilian drivers have historically been well backed, the timing is after meeting investors in Brazil and his name is valuable.

Not many teams have two pay drivers and not normally one with ambitions on 4th place.

This is my opinion and it leads me to believe Senna's performance will be judged more on money than what he does on a Saturday.


1) There is a difference between keeping something that is better and redeveloping it. For example, most teams had F-ducts last year, in fact Torro Rosso was developing it AFTER Spa, through past Monza. The F-duct is banned this year, but they still devloped it because they thought it would provide the boost they needed at the end of 2010.

Another example are double diffusers. I don't think any of the teams switched from the double to single at the end of last year. The double was highly developed and worked better, sure they can't use it this year, but it was already developed and so they left the single diffuser development purely for the 2011 car.

Same situation with the Front Exhausts. They are alreayd developed and working on the 2011 car. Sure they aren't good for 2012, but for 2011 they provide extra speed which is what they need and it doesn't cost anything to leave something on the car rather than making new.

If they didn't have any, then it would be logical to develop ones they could use next year as well, but because IT IS ALREADY DEVELOPED they are just leaving it.

Do you understand the difference?

They are probably developing exahust for 2012 for their 2012 car, why would they downgrade unless the had to?

2) You are confusing GENII and Renault. Renault have had 1 ownership change since thye became Renault, that was be sold to GENII. GENII are an investment group that put money into things, and hope to get a greater return later. The 10 billion dollar Brazil thing was not to do with Renault, but instead GENII making deals to be able to invest in more projects in Brazil. If they can invest with more loca specalised groups in Brasil, then the local groups get more funding and international growth potential improvement while GENII can get more money by having more to sell later at a higher amount.

The team sale was done before Senna.

3) The 'free advertising' is not free. It's paid for by Group Lotus. GL wants you to see Renault and think .'hey it's the 80's and that's a Lotus, they're doing well, I want to buy a Lotus and be cool like Senna, and Clark'. If they didn't get money from Group Lotus to do that then I'm guessing the car would be painted like the 2010 car. Total are a fuel company. Total make the fuel for Renault, Red Bull Racing and Team Lotus. Just as McLaren have Mobile1 on their cars, Renault and co have Total.

And yes, if Total sponsored Renault in that way, they could choose the colour they wanted Renault painted... in the same way that because Group Lotus sponsors Renault, they can chose the way the car is painted.

4) Nor do I, but he is not a pay as you go driver. They hired him with Russian money and after giving stability through a further 2 year deal they have got more Russian sponsors for more time.

I think that Senna brings name mostly. In the same way Nakajima got a drive in Williams because Toyota (Williams' engine supplier) wanted them to have a Japanese driver, and in the same way Russian companies are more likely to sponsor a team with a Russian driver, Senna brings the interest of Brazillian finance more than Williams say.

This is different from pay as you go. Pay as you go means that a driver pays a lump sum per race or for a few races. And they get a seat lke that. Think HRT.

5) Not many teams?

Red Bull - Webber has boosted Red Bull sales in Australia and New Zeland (counted as one 'country'). Vettel is a pinup boy for the German speaking company

McLaren - Having the two most recent British WDCs in the 'British' (New Zealand lol) team brought British interest.

Mercedes (currently 4th) - Wanted 2 German drivers to raise interest in Germany. I.e. hired for their nationality.

Same with Japanese manafacturers and engine suppliers

Sauber - Mostly talent, but Perez brings Mexican money and Kobayashi is the most likely to recieve Japanese interest

Force India - eying off a podium for a while. Does have one, and a pole. And Sutil brings money and Di Resta has undefined 'backing and support from Mercedes-Benz should he need it'... and FI needs money and paid off Liuzzi so I'm going with yes.

FERRARI - Alonso only replaced Raikkonen in 2010 because of Santander money and Massa's brazillian base is thought to possibly help sell Fiats in the new territory for Fiat sales.

It's quite common for drivers to have the skill to be their but also need some money (e.g. Sutil isn't exactly slow and is a decent midfield driver but brings money).

I think most are pretty favourable to Senna currently. First Quali since 2010, only 1 FP session between this weekend and 2010 and he beat Petrov in all 3 sessions of Quali.


"Senna’s “qualifying” will be how much cash he brings relative to Petrov."

Please expand on this more then the list you typed ...confused


Why all the fuss?

Against a rookie driver that is on his second year with NO testing during his F1 career Heidfeld HAS FAILED big time,he is JUST 2 points ahead and Heidfeld is a PAID driver,the supposed to be team leader.

True is that there may be some money benefits from this move,but true is too that if Heidfeld have done his job we would not been talking about this.

Call it a day Nick or go drive Lotus or Virgin like Trulli and Glock do.


Totally agree. Let's see what Bruno can do.


Heidfeld got 3 DNF vs 1 DNF for Petrov. That might explain the point difference. I do acknowledge that probably some of those DNF wouldn't resulted in Heidfeld finishing ahead of Petrov. But if we eliminate the races where one of them have DNF, then the score is 5-2 which would resulted in a bigger difference between the two.

The fact that 2 times his car on fire (and they let Nick race with a known cracked exhaust) showed that basically the team itself isn't good in the first place. You might blame Nick, but for me the bigger problem lies in the team itself.


Kind of agree with you there! What does Nick bring to the team? Not money, not performance, not leadership (that is discernible). He's an OK second drive, pretty consistent, hangs around & scores points but over one lap he hasn't got anything on Petrov (who brings what $15 million?). Another way of looking at is that Nick's salary has bought Renault 2 championship points. Not a very good return on investment.

That said, he should likely be paid something as his sub-par performance hasn't been dismal. Renault is not looking very classy right now (& Nick is looking down right desperate) .


I am glad you provided the comparions. Please take another look at them. Look at how even the differences are especially in the Alonso/Massa and the Vettel/Webber cases. On the other hand, 3 big numbers skew the average in the Petrov/Heidfeld case.

In Australia, Heidfeld was dogged by KERS issues. In China, he didnt get a fair crack cos Petrov himself incidently stopped on the track. Siverstone was a wet GP and some benefit of doubt could be given to the huge gap. Also Hedifeld was much faster in the race itself. In addiction, in Spain he didnt get to run at all in qualifying cos the car went up in flames.

It is clear that his chances in qualifying have been affected one too many times by things outside his control and he has not been as bad as a 8-3 number would suggest. Having said that qualifying is his achilles heel and he himself has accepted as much.


So you proved my point with your last line, right? And Boulllier has said as much today


First of all, go and review Petrov’s data. Correlate where he was decidedly slower (more than a second) than Kubica. You will find these tracks were Bahrain, Malaysia, Monaco, Canada, Singapore, Brazil. Surprise, surprise, the tracks where he was worst were either right at the beginning of the season or tracks he was less than familiar with (or both).

These results wildly skew the time differential between himself and Kubica, and it would be bad statistical practice to incorporate them in your sample.

Even if you include these values, a simple excel representation of their comparative differences will show that Kubica’s qualifying time advantage had trended down during the course of the year, from well over a second to less than half a second by the end of the season. If you remove the tracks I have mentioned from the sample, this advantage trended down from 0.7 seconds to 0.24.

The reality is that the performance differential between Kubica and Petrov was nothing like as wide as you make out come year end.

An analysis of Heidfeld’s performance relative to Petrov indicates a similar trend – I.e. the current gap between the two is nothing like as large as you make out.

Implying that Heidfeld is 1.244 seconds slower than Kubica is completely facetious. The reality is that Kubica would probably be 3-4 tenths faster than Heidfeld right now, a fact supported by your own numbers, not too dissimilar from what we witnessed when they raced with each other at BMW Sauber.

I’ve posted a few comments about Heidfeld on this forum, so don’t take my post as a defence of his performance this year. He probably should have been faster sooner, and irrespective, Renault expected him to be. He hasn’t met expectations, so they have some justification to look elsewhere.

I’m just bemused by the lack of insight of this article, insight that can be gleaned from 5 minutes in Excel.


But not to the extent that the statistics would have us belive.

I suspect Kubica was a little faster on average from late 06-09, yet Heidfeld scored more points during that time.

The race is what matters, and suprise surpise Heidfeld is ahead on points. And it is hard to build a large gap to your team mate if the car can barely score points, or make a race distance without setting itself on fire...


But qualifying doesnt mean everything any more, not that it did before.


Open mouthed...doesn't mean anything? I'd rather be P1 managing tyres than trying to get past KK to make the undercut work from 11th. If it didn't matter the WDC would go the person who ran least laps in quali.

Admittedly it's not as big an ingredient anymore, but it's pivotal, we'll see that in a couple of hours when those lunatics are piloting themselves over the hill as close to flat out as they can!


He himself has said that he needed to work on sorting out qualifying. So there is no arguing that he has been perfect. Having said that he has not been as bad as those numbers suggest. And he is mostly very good in the race itself. Jenson also is not the best in qualifying. But he is rightly regarded as a great driver a worthy world champ. Heidfeld is a lot like Button without his charm outside the car.

Webber is yet to win a race in what is accepted as the dominant car of the season. Felipe Massa is yet to be on the podium in the Ferrari. In fact his best finish to date is 5th. Yet they dont draw the same kind of flak as Heidfeld. Boullier even extended an open invitation to Webber to drive for Renault.

Sometimes I just dont understand Formula 1

Baron Von Awesome

Slow Nick can't even keep up with Petrov, a guy who Kubica demolished last year.

Nick was hopeless at developing the car. He came in Lotus Renault with a top car and leaves it in a shambles and worse yet is trying to sue them.

Lotus Renault's one big mistake was hiring this guy.

He really will not be missed at all.


So Nick beat Kubica who demolished Petrov but then Nick can't keep up with Petrov. So basically if Kubica were to race the current Petrov he should be behind in points right now.. correct? /s

It isn't good to compare drivers while assuming that they aren't improving.

And blaming the development of the car to the driver is kinda cheap. If that is the case then Alonso, Hamilton, and probably bunch of other lead drivers should be sacked because clearly they haven't met their goal to beat their closest rival. Yes, the driver play a role in developing the car, but the influence isn't as big as you think.


I agree, its a BIT harsh, but he does have to take some of the blame. He has bags of experience. I think the fact that EB was critical of his leadership is very telling, more than results I think that is what renault were looking for with such an inexperienced driver in the other car. He has to take some of the credit for this.


To be fair, Senna should have a grace period - 11 races worth before the team can start breathing down his neck to keep up the pace with Petrov's qualifying times & results.

The person who has has turned this script ugly is non other than the un-apologizing Heidfeld.

I was under the illusion that Heidfeld was standing in for Kubica as a favour & not because he was the team's test driver.

And instead of stepping aside gracefully, he just had to go & get the solicitors involved - Yikes!!! I now understand where Di Resta was coming from.

And remember this is the same Heidfeld that was reluctant (pretending) about taking Kubica's seat under the circumstances in which he got it.


What about allowance for different cars, different years, experience gained over one year etc. Comparison seems a bit odd to me.

If Senna gets within 4 tenths of Petrov, Renault should be very happy since this guy hasn't been in an F1 car for the whole race weekend for a long time.


I think Vitali raised his level in 2011 season.

Therefore, the comparison Vitali vs. Kubica not very well.


Argument for Nick:

Nick on pace with Kubica in 2009. I looked up the qualifying and most of the time they were within 2 tenths of each other.

Argument against Nick:

His mysterious gain in speed when Kubica stepped in, in place of Villeneuve. Was it a car improvement, or was he suddenly motivated?

Is Petrov enough motivation compared to the level he had when he was teammates with Kubica, or is it more akin to when he was teammates with Villeneuve?

That said, if Senna can match Petrov in the next two weekends, then they'll be able to show that a rookie was performing on the same level as Heidfeld, and they'll have a strong legal case.

If Senna averages half a second slower than Petrov, they'll have the same argument. Even if Senna is a second slower, they can put it down to a lack of testing (and a lack of dry running in Spa).

If Senna beats Petrov, then Heidfeld hasn't got a chance.

Basically, any way you look at it, Heidfeld doesn't have a chance in getting his seat back. Too many variables can be rationalized against poor old Nick, even if he is the superior driver.

My opinion? Nick is the ultimate second driver, as he matches the pace of whoever he is with. Hire your star driver, and Heidfeld will match his pace and impress you. Set up Heidfeld as the leader? He'll match your pay-driver's pace and let you down. Renault can't afford the star driver right now, and was hoping to make one out of Heidfeld... but it was never in the cards.


Very good last paragraph! Highly acurate description of LOTS of drivers out there.


Definitely hit the nail on the head.


you are good!


I think your last paragraph summarises Nick extremely well, and it correlates well with his career. When no one is watching he silently impresses, but expectation doesn't seem to sit well with him.


This is a good observation on N.H. Through the years there has always been more dangling potential that outlay on the track. You are right - he had the potential / talent to jump the highest bar, but settled for a comfortable height, that didn't require too much exertion.


And Bruno puts it in the wall in practice for Beef Bovril - I mean, Bouillier. What a shambles.


This is not mainly about qualifying. This is about Heidfeld having been hired to lead the team and not managing to have the on-track authority do so, as put by Boullier in the quote at the end of the article.

If the unexperienced driver you have is leading the team instead of the experienced one you hired just to do that, you might just as well drop the former and take a young gun with some cash.

And boy, wouldn't it be nice if Senna pulled a 91-Schumacher! Without the clutch thing, obviously...


It's unfortunate that you also have fallen to the 'what would Kubica have done?' stuff. Last year Petrov showed that when he wasn't crashing he was near Kubica's pace. With more testing and experience I think he would have surprised many people by matching Kubica this year. Plus the statistics and raw facts show that in their BMW days Heidfeld and Kubica were very evenly matched, with Heidfeld slightly edging it.


Im pretty sure Heidfeld didnt edge it over Kubica in 2008


So you pick the one year Kubica was ahead..

06 - Kubica rookies, and Heidfeld wins

07 - Heidfeld wins

08 - Kubica wins

09 - Heidfeld wins

It's safe to say Heidfeld was faster


Heidfeld was lucky in 2009. Kubica retired from a certain 2nd in Australia and that result alone would of beat Heidfeld in WDC in 2009.

Kubica was alot faster than Hiedfel end of.


Thank-you for pointing this out. I find it remarkable how certain drivers drum up massive reputations, while others are never able to. I'm thinking here of Kubica, but also Kobayashi. Yes, he knows how to make a flashy overtake, but he's just damn slow at times!


I'm quite surprised that so many people have come out in support for Nick. This is a cut-throat business, and I don't think Renault are doing as well as anyone expected them to. Heidfeld was hired as an experienced, safe pair of hands, and is barely ahead of a team mate who has a tenth of the experience (not to mention getting smashed in qualifying). People can point out circumstances all they like, but circumstances don't pay the bills.

Heidfeld was given a golden opportunity in the twilight of his career to be the lead driver in a competitive midfield team. To finally shake off the image of perhaps being gifted more opportunities due to his nationality and show that he has the outright speed and racing instincts to warrant his seat in F1. It seems Renault haven't got what they needed from him, and if they can substitute a driver in that brings extra financial benefits with no discernible loss in performance, surely it's a no brainer?


I would really like to see kobayashi in a Renault! That's all.


Wait long enough and he'll drive into one.

Jokes aside, I agree with you.


Quite simply, who's ahead of Heidfeld in the championship that he realistically could have beaten? Rosberg? Renault should be ahead of Mercedes for Heidfeld not getting the boot?

That's a tall order.

He's in the same position Kubica finished last season.

I think Mr Boullier made a very harsh decision and I'm not too impressed seeing who jumps in the bandwagon.


C'mon guys. This is a simple decision based on money.

With Senna, Renault have a paying live test pilot. With Heidfeld they don't.

The money had an and when Heidfeld almost died in flames. Good for him that nothing happened, but the teamget out of money when they lost Heidfeld's car chassis.

So, at the end of the day, what they have? No money for further developments. So what the team should do with a non paying pilot that don't want to develop a car that almost killed him twice? Bring some money, and end this horrific season.

The first time I saw the front end exaust concept, I knew that just a crazy guy like Kubica to accept the development of something so dangerous. Heidfeld realized in the first fire action, that his future could be like Nikki Lauda, and stopped the work, by cutting his motivation.

My point is: Now Renault got more incoming money, And Heidfeld got more chances of comming back to F1.

Let's hope that a combination of a real dangerous car, a real rookie driver and the 80% heat burning flat acceleration race track don't became a tragedy combination.

James, cheers from a Brazillian fan. Your site is fantastic as aways.


Heidfeld has always been a bit of an under performer in my eyes and has had plenty of opportunities in F1 to show his wares. Probably make a good sportscar driver.


I dont buy that Heidfield is a dud - but even if he is, why go and replace him with someone who at best will be 0.4 seconds slower than the teams No.2 driver (now promoted to No.1).

Or is there no-one available thats better than Petrov?


Irrelevant to who the driver is... if you are not performing... the fresh breed o' drivers must be given a chance to hone their skills in F1, for to be honest, after the in-season ban on testing, there is very little opportunity for the young guns to hone their skills and prove their worth as formula one driver.

I feel driver like Perez & Maldanado would've been at least been 0.3 to 0.5 seconds faster if the in season testing would've been legal.

F1 must also invest in the future of the sport.

Either have Three cars with Rookie running one as Ferrari have been suggesting or run third driver mandatory on Fridays as been suggested.

Otherwise it'd be counterproductive for F1.

So, it is a decent move by Renault


Yeah, agree about the rookies finding pace. The only thing that worries me is that Alonso would spend every waking minute testing and it wouldn't matter how fast everyone else was.


While Heidfeld might not be the answer, this Senna definitely isn't. Until they get a driver of the calibre of Hulkenberg into the car they won't know what it can do.

I'll bet Senna doesn't get close to Petrov.


At this rate I'll be proven wrong, it seems B Senna can drive after all. I had to add the 'B' in there or it made no sense at all!


Stats are just stats and sometimes could be misleading but is the the oint is there -even if Petrov improved from last year I think Renault clearly expected Heidfeld to perform much better. qualifying gap aside, they are quite even on points with Heidfeld marginaly ahead and ti was not enough for team. Heidfeld hashad his chances for many years and I applaud Renault for their decision to give chance new faces. There is breed of young drivers without a seat while some veterans hanging around glued to the paddock. I mean Trulli, Barrichello or even Schumacher, although he at least brings something to talk about, should go. would love to see Grosjean, Bianchi and others to have a proper shot.


I think Renault have been a bit slow on this. If Senna hadve driven the car from the beginning we'd all be discussing how they'd have performed with a top driver. By round 6/7 they should've realized they had more to gain by running Senna. I like Nick, but the car's not a winner and giving seat time to Bruno makes more sense, especially considering the Kubica situation!


That's right. Other team bosses I've disussed this with say Renault had nothing to lose by changing as Heidfeld was only 2 points ahead of Petrov, that's not what he was hired to do.


It seems that there is absolutely no provision taken here for Petrov improving as a driver?

Heidfeld's remit is to beat his team-mate, which he has done, surely this is the only actual fact, rather than speculation?

Kobayashi hasn't been so hot in quali, yet no-one denies he's a great racer. It would be good to see a comparison of him against Perez...

Anyway, great work on getting the stats, even if I don't agree entirely with the logic!


Petrov deserves his shot as No1 driver. Renault were never going to set the world on fire this year after [i]that[/i] tragedy pre-season. He has done a good job and with the criticism of his leadership being so telling in EB's statement I think it's fair enough to move him on. Nothing personal, but they can have a cheaper No1 driver who is already under contract and test a lucrative rookie.

F1 has always been a hard game to play, especially from the sidelines.


They should of put roman grosjean in the car instead of bruno, roman is in top form in gp2 at the moment and deserves a second chance, might even get some french people watchin f1 again! Christian klien outqualfied bruno in the tricky HRT last on his debut, he would of been a better option.

Jack Flash (Aust)


Quali Results from Spa are in. Changeable conditions as often they are around the grand old girl of F1 - Spa. Some surprising results and big names missing out on making thru to Q3. Neither of the Renault's were amongst those victims. Both Vitaly and Bruno making Q3 - with some conviction I'd say.

Furthermore in Q3, Bruno Senna holds it together, holds his nerve, and puts in consistent ever-better laps to snatch a first GP outing 7th position for Spa, ahead of Vitaly Petrov in 10th.

That's pretty impressive. Even more so for the treachery of conditions in Q1 and Q2.

There is a lot of work now for Bruno to do running out a whole GP around Spa. Especially since the grid position of 7th has him in very new position to be fighting from in Formula 1. We'll see how he does a that. I wish him a Vitaly well.

So... which Heidfeld fanboy is going to be first to admit that Boullier may have had a valid point or two on the Qual performances of Quirk (sic) Nick? JF


Great Qualifying effort ruined by a spectacular first corner. Oh well

Adrian Newey Jnr

I think things will get "interesting" once Heidfeld is allowed to tell his side of the story as to what is going on behind the scenes at ex-Renault.

Seems like (involuntarily) sitting out this year might have been the best thing for Robert. If the car is a dud, he doesn't tarnish his reputation like Michael.


Robert, simply the best, alongside Hamilton and Alonso. Poor Heidfeld's and Petrov's fans still don't get it. Guys, please stop kidding yourself.

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