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Renault and Heidfeld settle out of court
Posted By: James Allen  |  02 Sep 2011   |  5:23 pm GMT  |  96 comments

The Renault team has announced that it has reached an out of court settlement with Nick Heidfeld, who was dropped from the team ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix. Bruno Senna drove in that race.

Heidfeld said in Spa that he believed he had a valid contract and that a court hearing would take place after the Italian Grand Prix. But that will now not take place and the team is free to run whomever they choose alongside Vitaly Petrov.

Senna is in for the rest of the season (Photo: LRGP)

It was also said in Spa that the Senna deal was intended to be for the rest of the season. This was confirmed this afternoon. Newly crowned GP2 champion remains the team’s 3rd driver.

Eric Boullier, the Team Principal said, “Our disagreement with Nick has been the subject of much media coverage lately, and we are pleased to have reached a swift and reasonable solution. Our separation process was already a painful one, and neither of us wanted to go through another legal hearing. We’re very grateful to Nick for the highly valuable contribution he’s made to the team. We certainly had good times together, in particular remembering our podium finish in Malaysia. He is a very strong and determined racer and we wish him every success in the future.”

Heidfeld said, “Obviously I’m disappointed to be leaving Lotus Renault GP in the middle of the season. I thought I could still make a big contribution to the team, but I have to see things as they are and I want to turn my attention to the future. We have taken the right decision by choosing to end our collaboration today. I would like to wish all the friends I made at Enstone a successful end to the season. One thing is for sure – I’ll be back racing at the highest level soon.”

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I agree that this was poorly managed. If anyone should go at Renault its Boullier. This should have been handled behind closed doors.

Heidfelds talent at development…which he always been praised for… is most likely one of if not THE reason the Renualt is turning around. I hope they dont expect Senna to be able to offer the same level of input, no chance. They will suffer for Nick’s absence in this regard. But if Senna does well, and reaps the rewards of Heidfeld’s (and Petrov’s to a degree) development, he will be portrayed by the team as some glorious savior…..just watch.

Fair, unfair, whatever… its always a soap opera in F1.


What I want to know, more than anything, is this: if Kubica is available for 2012, does he have a seat in Renault?

I’m starting to doubt it.




James, interesting that your article doesn’t really go into the brain drain from the team over the past 12-18mths. In your opinion, how much has this impacted the development of the car?


I’ve written on that before. I is a factor of course. But they’ve also recruited some more people since. That said, there was another round of layoffs before the summer break..


I’ve read a lot of stuff now about “bringing the mojo back”, “bad qualifying performance” and “lack of leadership”. But things get ignored here. It is easy to be faster than your team mate in qualifying if you set up your car for it. Nick had been better than Petrov in the races, which could have been a result of his approach to focus a car setup on race-day rather than on qualifying. Of course that makes you look bad on saturdays, but it’s sunday when you win the points. It shows his experience that he prefers a less vivid handling, because when it comes to race day – unnecessarily wrestling a car for 2 hours is not what you need if you want to consistenly score points – ask Sir Jackie Stewart. Nick rarely makes errors, he has been “Mr.Reliable” ever since and it had made him beat most of his team mates at the end of the year, including highly rated drivers like Kubica and Räikkönen. There seems to be something right about that strategy, doesn’t it? The team has to ask itself, whether it is still able to build a car that is both well behaving and fast. Most of the championship winning cars have been like that. Just watch Martin Brundles and Jacky Stewarts test-drive-videos and listen to their comments, cars like Schumachers infamously twitchy Benetton have been the exception to the rule. Just do the math: make your car a tenths faster a lap by making it more twitchy, make one mistake because the car is bitch and you lose what you gained plus some more – does that make sense to you? Most champions be it Stewart, Lauda, Senna, Prost or Alonso prefered a reliable handling and even though Schumacher does fancy a very sticky front and a rather light rear, his Ferraris have been well balanced and behaved cars. Good cars are like that. It was Mr Allen who said that Renault voted for the front exhaust because they expected a better balance when getting on/off throttle than with a rear blown diffuser, so they know that too. What else can it be than a bad excuse from Renault, when they say it was bad that Heidfeld deadened the handling? Renault had had problems because of their wind tunnel reconfiguration, they had given Nick a car that blew up twice and they have repeatedly criticised him in public, despite of him winning more points than Petrov. How much “mojo” so you think does that give a driver? So Heidfeld was “not pushing the engineers”? Do engineers who are worth a job in F1 need to be pushed? Are we talking about a professional F1 team here, or a dump? Nicks primary problem is that he is rather quiet in public and pretty boring to watch, but he’s a good performer, there’s no doubt. If it had been about performance they should have sacked Petrov, but wait – there’s a Lada batch on the Lotus-sponsored Renault (now how does that make sense to you, other than financially?).

It’s pretty obvious that all parties, from Bahar to the Genii-guys wanted the Senna helmet back in a black and gold “Lotus” and they wanted more money. Everything else is more or less just an excuse. Even if there had been good reasons for sacking Heidfeld it had been pretty badly managed by Boullier. Making your leading driver a scapegoat in public is bad manners and unprofessional, plus it damages the reputation of him, the team and the associated sponsors. The people see they’re sold a dummy. I don’t think anyone I’ve read so far honestly thinks that anyone from Renault has gained any sympathy with the way they did it, even if they prefer Senna as a driver. Also as a company, would you really like to do business with a bunch of guys that doesn’t respect contracts and makes you the scapegoat if things get difficult? What signals does that try to send? Do the Renault sponsors identify with that? If so, I don’t want any business with them, do you?


I am inclined to agree with you, but… How come he has never taken any other team and made it great and gotten better results? Even though he reliably got the car to finish most of the time, his lack of development skills do seem to be lacking. Badly.


Grammar fail. What I meant to say was his development skills seem to be lacking.


A driver can only express what he needs his car to be like and try to adapt to the current handling characteristics. The rest is up to the designers, and I don’t think any of the teams he had driven in has had the people to create championship material while he has been there, except Williams maybe (Gavin Fisher made one one good car in 2003, but with Jason Sommerville and Nick Alcock in charge of the aerodynamics, those have been replaced by Loic Bigois, the one who made just one good car in his whole career: The 2009 Brawn GP with one year of full time development on a monster budget, as the 2008 Honda has been abandoned at the start of the season for being a total lemon). By the way: He’s the aero-head at Mercedes at the moment, and I suppose he’s rather a part of their problem than part of the solution.


The handling of the split with Heidfeld was inept in the extreme. When your supposed #1 driver shows up in the paddock in team clothing expecting to drive the car, and then gives interviews to the media explaining that (a) he is not driving the car any more and (b) he will be seeing the team in court in the near future, there is not much the team can do to make that look anything like a cock-up. LRGP has now settled with Heidfeld, which suggests to me that they had not offered him enough compensation originally. The track record of formula 1 team leadership when put in law courts is not a good one (see Jordan, Eddie) – they generally do not come across well under cross-examination. LRGP was on a hiding to nothing trying to fight Heidfeld in court – his decision to sue them shows that he probably does not care if he ever drives in F1 again, so he had nothing to lose by going to court.

This will have been an expensive lesson for LRGP. I just hope that the pot of Brazilian sponsorship gold will cover the costs.


Where is the rest of the 32 comments??


New hit about Robert Kubica by polish dance music group.



Those saying Renault poorly managed the drivers this year may be doing them an injustice.

From everything I understand Heidfeld wasn’t dropped due to his performance or because of money or anything like this, He was dropped because the team felt they needed to try something new to try & regain some of the atmosphere within the team they had at the start of the year.

Theres a great article on AutoSport (For subscribers) talking about how the atmosphere in the Renault garage over the Spa weekend was much better than it had been recently because Bruno had come in & lifted the teams spirits with the way he goes about interacting with the team as a whole.

The article notes that Bruno’s qualifying performance had the team smiling & cheering again which is something they havn’t done since the 2 podiums at Melbourne/Sepang.

It all apparently stems from Senna doing FP1 at Hungary, The team were genuinely impressed with not only his performance on the track but also his level of technical feedback & how he pushed the engineer’s in making changes to the car, Changes which worked.

One line from the AutoSport article:

“Yet to believe that Heidfeld had been dropped in favour of Senna purely to deliver improved results is to totally misunderstand the motivation behind it. This was a call based on spirit, on gut feeling – and about shaking up an outfit to get its mojo back.”


It’s a fair comment, but it still doesn’t excuse the way in which they’ve handled the whole episode. This is hardly the first time they’ve dropped a driver mid-season, after all, and had they gone about it properly I’m sure they could have reached a compromise with Heidfeld before or during the summer break. The fact that it’s ended with them having to pay off his contract says it all really, and that in my view points to more fundamental issues within the team than the nut behind the wheel (so to speak). Instilling direction and motivation in the team is not the role of the driver alone, after all.


I can see that, and the intimation that Heidfeld was holding back the car’s development so it would suit his driving style.

Having said that, changes even higher up are probably needed to really shake them up and get them progressing nicely once more.


*choice not coince


ever since Kubica had that horyble accident and they announce that Heidfeld is the replacment driver,I said to myself,WHAT A STUPID MISTAKE!In sense that you(Renault)have a reserve driver(SEnna),but you hired an outside driver?Why,dont you have confindence in your own coince?This news hust confirms to me that if hey allowed Senna to race from the star of the season,they(Renault),would have been with a lot more points than now!


There couldn’t be a more perfect image for this article!

Also pleased to see Bruno Senna’s qualifying performance. If he turns them into points, there will be serious competition for seats at Renault!


James, Joe saward suggested that having heidfeld as the lead development driver in the team had a negative impact on the performance of the car as the season progressed as he likes to “deaden” the handling of the car and likes a safe car in contrast to kubica who favours an aggressive, edgy and ultimately faster package. Do you have any thoughts on this? It would certainly explain part of the reason why a car that grabbed podiums at the start of the season declined so badly


Sounds like a bit of the old “blame game” to me I’m afraid – making a car’s handling more neutral should not make it slower unless there’s something fundamentally wrong with its design. A neutral handling car is what all the teams are aiming towards after all, as neither understeer nor oversteer are good for lap times. I’m not an F1 engineer but that doesn’t make much sense to me, and it certainly doesn’t explain why they couldn’t make that performed well in spite of that when (as Jo correctly points out) McLaren managed it for Button.


So he was faster is an car more suited to Kubica’s style and then once he got it working more to his own liking he started going slower. That makes a lot of sense.


Well put it this way, I know where he got that info from and it’s a good source at the team


Easy to blame Heidfeld when what matters is downforce 1st & foremost. Button likes a neutral car, not an agressive & edgy one. No1 in his teams blamed him for that.

An edgy car isn’t necessarily fast & fast car isn’t necessarily edgy.

LRGP is a team which lost some key engineers, which is surrounded by rumors of money shortage & which is the team less guaranteed to have a Renault engine in the future.

All this isn’t Heidfeld mistake so they’d better look at themselves before blaming the drivers.


You’re confusing car set-up with car development. That’s one thing. The other is that both Heidfeld and Petrov lost pace and the team said Heidfeld was responsible for car development. It seems pretty likely that car developed with Kubica and around not only his preferences but also his input. Judging by the results, Kubica’s input over the winter was much better than Heidfeld’s during the season.

Now stop speculating about lack of money, since there’s no evidence of such. The fact suggest exactly otherwise, If LRGP was short of money, they wouldn’t have bought out Heidfeld’s contract, rather they would follow with legal proceedings to minimize the costs of his departure.

The “key personnel going away” is also not true, since last season the only significant departure was Slade. LRGP lost a lot of staff beforehand and this season they only strengthened their staff. The key engineers responsible for last years quite capable car did not leave. The difference was Kubica.


Of course its not the drivers fault exclusively, the team seems to be disarray with staff leaving etc. But Heidfeld was hired to be the team leader, the reference point for the team, a role he clearly failed to fulfill with Petrov outperforming him in quali, a driver who was destroyed by Kubica last year


There are clearly some other factors in play here.

The Renault car is not a winner. In a Grand Prix where two drivers from McLaren Ferrari and Red Bull finish, the best Renault could hope from Nick is 6th.

An occasional podium seems a reasonable expectation. How many? This is F1, so lets be ambitious and say 4 or 5.

For someone to walk into a team with little or no preparation, after a disrupted season the year before and produce 4 or 5 podiums by mid-season is a huge ask.

Nick has one podium and has 50% of the team’s 2011 points. If he’s disappointed anyone, it can’t be by much. He’s done OK.

Its not about him, its about the money.


That is a very tough way to (probably) leave the sport. Wish him well.


It has been a disapointing last few years for Nick and I guess his time in F1 had to end sooner or later. He was strong in 05,06 and 07 but struggled with qualifying this year tho his race pace (16th to 8th in GB) has been good. I feel Renualt once they saw the car was not getting developed probarly decided this year was one big test session and have thrown in Senna to see what he can do. I think Nick’s downfall was that he was simply too nice and didn’t show enough of a hard edge, selfish persona that many champions do.


Presumably HRT will find Nick a spare seat if no one else will


Unlikely. HRT cares only about how much money you can bring into the team, and for Nick it’s zero.


I doubt it. Get only want drivers who bring cash


James I read an artical on the bbc websight that Webber was offered a drive at some other teams before he re-signed with Redbull.

Can you tell us who they are, was one of them Renault.

Grayzee (Australia)

ooh…yes please. Who was it? Surely the only one worth considering would have been Ferrari?

I’m glad he’s staying at RB, though.

Knowing Mark, he will be thinking “I’ve got to try and beat the “finger kid” at his own game.”


Heidfeld always appeared to have an air of cockiness about him to me and I think over time it has bitten him.

As for Senna as replacement. Good on him. He seems level headed and wants to make his own impression on F1 and not lie in the shadows of his uncle although it will be hard. I dont know about anyone else but seeing him in the renault lotus at spa did bring back memories of Ayrton and some close up shots of him in and around the car, well you would swear it was the man himself!!

I hope he proves a lot of his critics wrong and those critising him take him for who he is not who he is related to.


I agree. I keep seeing Ayrton Senna in the Black and Gold Lotus. Amazing. I thought Bruno did really well in qualifying but not so great in the race (possibly a damaged car). Lotus had a great car for Canada and should have the same one for Monza, meaning Petrov and Senna should be in Top 10 for the qualifications.


I think you mean Renault… Unless you want to extend the conversation to talking about Hamilton and Button’s Vodafone cars, for example.


Isn’t it Lotus Renault? It’s easy to be confused with the 2 of them in the field.


Have yet to see an F1 driver without an air of cockiness.

Christopher Mason

+1. I suspect it is a vital ingredient when you factor in the need to attract sponsorship and the need to be noticed in a sea of talent early in ones career.


of course you have seen the comments made by Brunno that he is going to turn the team around!


I’m with you there Pete.

Very impressed by Bruno Senna’s first outing. As for not lying in the shadows of his uncle, he may want to speak to Damon or Jacques who both went on to become world champion in their own right.

PS: totally off topic, but I really like your site idea and the feel of your splash page so far.


Damon and Jacques both in far superior cars that my granny could have won a championship with, lol.


Abysmal first corner, a fastest lap 1.2s slower than Petrov and 3.7s slower than the overall quickest and finishing ahead of only the new teams and Barrichello who pitted late on.

Agreed, a vintage display.


It is totally your right not to be impressed by a driver who beat his team mate first time out in qualifying whilst still learning the car, and I respect the fact that only the Sunday results count for some.

However, I’m sure that with a little effort you will remember Sebastian Vettel’s flamboyant first race for Toro Rosso mid season at the Hungaroring in 2007. Did you think he was already an ‘also ran’ back then?

I would suggest that you might want to keep an open mind about these things. There is a lot more than one race result to take into consideration. Did Nick ever federate the team around him the way Bruno did in his first race? Did you see the joy of the Renault mechanics on Saturday? F1 is as much about intangibles as it is about hard facts, in my humble opinion.


I cringe at the way it was handled. I don’t feel Nick deserved the humiliating public criticism for his performances as well as the sack. The latter would have been enough.


Agree, this was badly managed. Bouillier should have negotiated with Nick privately and ended the contract amicably, with any old reason given for the parting of ways. But this way Nick is made to look useless, Bioullier is made to look vindictive, and Senna looks like ‘you’re only here cos you bought the beer’. No winners, except now Nick has got paid for the humiliation.


Heidfeld’s a very good driver who might have wasted his career reaching for the F1 brass ring. You can’t really blame him for that but having to jump from a burning car TWICE in one year? Someone upstairs was trying to tell him something.


They put Senna in at the perfect time of the year. They took there chance with Heidfeld at the beginning to try and move up the grid with an experienced driver. When they got to the summer break and with them looking like they will finish where they are in the championship, why not make a change. They have two other drivers on the payroll and can now evaluate Senna against Petrov and Grosjean can travel with the team to rest of the fly away races as the reserve test driver. Experience for both young guys.


Smells to me Like Nick has just taken the straight $ buy out of his contract as “settlement” and simply dropped his action against Renault.

He didn’t win an injunction in London prior to belgium, simply got given a non urgent hearing date after Monza. His QC has advised him to take the money and go race DTM, rather than make himself even more poisonous to other team owners.


I really do not understand these drivers – uh, Heidfeld, Schumi & Rubens who think they have a divine right to be in F1 forever.

Look if they were performing, I wouldn’t have an issue with them carrying on but for goodness sake, these are grandpas suffering from the effects of a mid-life crisis.

So I say, get rid of them & let other drivers have a spin.

Only the good Lord knows the kind of dark alley deal that must have been reached to get Nick out of Renault’s hair but one thing is for certain and that is, no team will ever touch the prima donna despite his optimism of getting back into the sport.

No body likes a S.O.B that threatens with lawsuits & so now he’s tainted for life just like Nelson Piquet Jr is.

Actually thinking about it, Telfonso is lucky that he’s a top notch driver for after the stunt he pulled on Ron Dennis, well, he should be in jail right now

Anyway I suspect Nick may end up doing commentary for some Tv station for who knows, maybe Sky may pick him up.


His image isn’t as tarnished as NPJ’s was – NH raced honestly. NH took what many would consider reasonable action in an attempt to uphold a contract. *shrug*


Interestingly Heidfeld has pretty much matched all his teammates no matter their ability.

Whether thye be Kimi, Webber, Kubica, Villneuve, Kobayashi or Petrov.

He hasn’t ever been at one pace, he has always been their or their abouts of ihs teammate. Infact he was their or their about with Villneuve and then Kubica came and suddenly Heidfeld improved and was their or their abouts with Kubica.

I wonder what would happen if stuck with someone like Alonso?


So if you were doing your job perfectly well, outperforming your colleagues, and your employer sacked you for no justifiable reason, you’d just say ‘oh, ok then’ and walk away? I don’t understand where comments like “drivers who think they have a divine right to be in F1” come from. Surely anyone is entitled to pursue the profession they desire and are trained for? The question is whether anyone is willing to employ them – and clearly as of now, Mercedes and Williams think they’re worth it. I’m no fan of Schumacher, but he seemed pretty effective at Spa, and I’m willing to bet that poor performance or not, Mercedes has sold more cars off the back of his name than they have Rosbergs. Meanwhile Rubens hasn’t had the car to show much this season but it was only 12 months ago that he pulled off the overtake of the season in Hungary and was blowing ‘next World Champion’ Hulkenberg into the weeds! You don’t have to be a fan of all the drivers but there’s no need to be nasty about them.


I love people like you who knows the truth from the million lies there are out there. Great post!


We heard it first on JAoF1!

I hope this blog is being worth your time, James. It certainly is at the top of my list of F1 sites to visit each day.

As for Nick… a change to DTM or Indycars might do him good and get some fire under his belly. There are no excuses for being outclassed by Petrov in qualifying by the margin we have been seeing.


I agree no excuse at all


Of the same opinion too. Limitied sympathy for an under-achiever.


Qualifying doesn’t matter any more – in the 7 races they both finished, Heidfeld beat Petrov 5-2, would have been 6-2 and 12 points more between them had Kobayashi not taken Quick Nick out in Canada, where he was having an excellent race. Heidfeld’s problem was never his racecraft, just go on youtube to see some brilliant overtakes, but the quiet way he presented himself, which gave the perception he wasn’t up to much. And sadly, in F1 perception is everything – Witness Boullier’s bizarre comments that he was ‘impressed’ with senna’s race last weekend. Good Qualy yes, but his first corner was more Inoue than Senna. Had he kept his original moniker of Lalli, no way he would be in that car. Only because some marketeers had the romantic idea of seeing that helmet and the senna name in a black lotus. Not so Romantic when it’s not bringing home any points and has dire first corners. Hope to See Heidfeld back in F1, he’s been written off before and always come back so here’s hoping – certainly more deserving of a place than Liuzzi or Trulli.


Kobayashi took Heidfeld out in Canada?


Early in the season, everything seemed rosy. Heidfeld even scored a PODIUM in Malaysia! Then, when the car started consistently underperforming (not just for Nick but for Vitaly as well), for some obscure reason everyone began pointing at Nick as the problem. I guess the only thing that counts is “what have you done for me lately”. Unless, of course, your name is Michael Schumacher.


One of the reasons I have read is lack of leadership, something Kubica really had. Lack of leadership and push from Nick could have potentially led to bad upgrades/feedback.

just a thought


Lets hope that’s the last we see in F1 of the most uninspiring,uncharismatic,overrated driver ever!’Quick Nick’ he most certainly wasnt!

Off to the DTM and take Michael with you….and Rubens,Jarno,Buemi…..


tend to agree with you

Christopher Snowdon

Harsh but true 🙁

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