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Heidfeld: BMW Sauber have taken 'a huge leap' 24 Mar 2008

Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1.08.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Qualifying Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 22 March 2008 Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1 celebrates in parc ferme.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, 23 March 2008 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R28, David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing RB4 and Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1.08 battle.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, 23 March 2008. © Sutton Images

Nick Heidfeld has hailed BMW Sauber’s progress after their strong performance in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix. While team mate Robert Kubica brought his F1.08 home second, the Pole’s best-ever F1 result, Heidfeld scored his and the team’s maiden fastest lap on his way to sixth place.

Based on BMW Sauber’s modest showings in pre-season testing, few had expected them to be able to challenge the two top teams, and given their tally of 19 points from the first two races - nine more than in the opening two rounds of 2007 - even Heidfeld admitted he was surprised at their improvement.

"I didn't expect that we would be able to match the pace of the McLarens in Malaysia, and even be slightly faster than them in the closing stages of the race,” Heidfeld told BMW Sauber’s official website. “Compared to the off-season tests, we have made a huge leap."

Starting fifth on the grid, Heidfeld’s race was compromised early on by a first-corner tussle with Toyota’s Jarno Trulli. However, the German fought back, pulling off arguably the best passing move of the afternoon, and then clocking the fastest lap on his penultimate tour of Sepang.

"Overtaking Alonso and Coulthard at the same time, in the opening stages of the race, was really big fun," the 30-year old admitted. "For me, this was the crucial move on the way to securing the best possible result after having lost several positions due to the close encounter with Trulli."

Team principal Mario Theissen was understandably delighted with the result. Furthermore, he is convinced there is plenty more to come from the F1.08 - enough, in fact, for the German-Swiss team to achieve their declared aim of a 2008 victory.

“We have not yet tapped our car's full potential,” said Theissen. “Therefore, I'm confident that we will be able to achieve the goal we've set ourselves for the 2008 season: to close the gap to the top teams and to secure our maiden Grand Prix win. Everybody is working hard to help us realise this goal, at the racetrack, during testing, as well as in Munich and Hinwil.”

Heidfeld and Kubica lie third and fifth respectively in the driver standings, while BMW Sauber are second to McLaren in the constructors’ table.