Heidfeld: BMW Sauber have taken 'a huge leap' 24 Mar 2008
Nick Heidfeld has hailed BMW Saubers progress after their strong performance in Sundays Malaysian Grand Prix. While team mate Robert Kubica brought his F1.08 home second, the Poles best-ever F1 result, Heidfeld scored his and the teams maiden fastest lap on his way to sixth place.
Based on BMW Saubers 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 Saubers official website. Compared to the off-season tests, we have made a huge leap."
Starting fifth on the grid, Heidfelds race was compromised early on by a first-corner tussle with Toyotas 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.