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Heidfeld capitalises on Bourdais' heartbreak in Belgium 07 Sep 2008

Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1 on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 7 September 2008 Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1.08.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 7 September 2008 Sebastien Bourdais (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 7 September 2008 Sebastien Bourdais (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 6 September 2008

With speculation about their futures dominating the media in the lead up to the Belgian race, BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld and Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Bourdais had something to prove at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend. And during Sunday’s thrilling race, Heidfeld and Bourdais both showed their respective teams what they can do - even though it will be the German who leaves Spa the happier man.

Heidfeld, who had qualified fifth, enjoyed a great start, but after making contact with McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen soon after, dropped down the field and thought his chances were over. But when the rain began to fall, a quick pit stop to take on wet tyres proved a wise move as he quickly scythed his way up the order to finish an impressive and unexpected third.

“I had a fantastic race weekend and I am very happy today,” he enthused. “At the start I got off better than the guys in front of me. Then I decided to go for the outside line, but unfortunately Heikki Kovalainen crashed into my car. This can happen, and I was lucky my car wasn't damaged. Of course I lost a lot of places. Later on in the race I was able to get some back, but then I got stuck in traffic.

“When the drizzle set in I was convinced it would be heavier on the next lap and decided to change to wet weather tyres. The team asked me if I meant what I said. When I left the pit lane after the stop I asked on the radio how many laps to go, and my engineer said this one and another one. As I couldn't see any cars on the track I thought, oh this was probably the wrong decision, but then it paid off. It was a 'Hero or Zero' decision."

In contrast, Bourdais had enjoyed a great race until the rain arrived, running in contention for the final podium place. However, the Frenchman opted to stay out on the wet track with dry tyres and, with the treacherous conditions demanding a slower pace, Heidfeld was able to sneak past. In the race’s dying moments Bourdais also lost places to team mate Sebastian Vettel and BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica and eventually finished in seventh.

“On the last lap it was a lottery with the car getting away from you with every turn of the wheel,” he said. “It’s a horrible situation, as everything had been under control up until then. But I am not in a situation where I can risk everything and at the end of the race I didn’t even know where I finished. It was so close to being a great result I felt I could almost touch it and so it was a very frustrating way to finish what was a great weekend up to that point. Such a shame, but nevertheless a very strong result for the team.”

Despite his despair, Bourdais’ seventh place, combined with Vettel’s fifth, boosted Toro Rosso’s tally to 17 points to put the Italian team level with Williams in the standings. Meanwhile, with Heidfeld’s third place and Kubica’s sixth, BMW Sauber picked up a healthy nine points to further consolidate their third in the championship.