Comeback kid - we talk to Germany's new leading man...
Last year it almost seemed that Formula One racing had closed the book on him. Then the Jenson Button contract situation played fairy godmother to Nick Heidfeld, giving him a one-year contract with Williams, supposedly to keep the cockpit warm for Button in 2006.
Now, after three podiums from five race finishes, he is the highest German driver in the championship standings - out-pointing Michael and Ralf Schumacher. And despite a DNF is last weekends Canadian Grand Prix, he is also ahead of his highly-rated team mate Mark Webber.
After years spent largely towards the rear of the field with a variety of teams, how does it feel to finally be given the chance to show his potential? We asked him.
My situation now is, for sure, something special. It is a fantastic feeling to see all the jigsaw pieces fall into place. I had to go through many hard years and experiences to finally be able to be where I always thought I should be. Sure it was a lucky strike with the Jenson situation that gave me the chance to get into a competitive cockpit. But the winter test showed that this could be my year and now I am grabbing it with both hands.
And after years of living in Michael Schumachers shadow, how does it feel to suddenly be Germanys leading title contender?
Well, lets put it this way, I was always very sure that I could compete with the top notch of drivers, but true it surprised me - but also the whole paddock - that Ferrari is not doing better. So to be in front of Michael is quite a surprise. With the performance of our car during the winter tests I was pretty sure that I will be ahead of Ralf. The elevation of Toyota came as one of the big surprises of this season with Jarno (Trulli) being among the top three and Ferrari is catching so lets wait and see how long my best German driver status will live on.
This could be a make-or-break year for Heidfeld. Do the results he has achieved so far this season give him confidence that he will be in Formula One racing for many years to come?
I always knew that if I get the chance to drive for a top team, that I will show good performances. I would say it was always a sort of optimistic realism that kept me carrying on even when the times where tough like last year with Jordan. So now I am more than satisfied how the season went so far.
But, nevertheless, Heidfelds is only a one-year contract - what comes next? Have other teams already been knocking at the door for 2006?
There have been loose talks with some teams but it is much too early in the season to make a commitment for the next season. I am fully concentrating to score as many points as possible and to give my best at every race, so when the time comes when the transfer carousel starts moving I want to be in the best situation possible.
And does he have any prediction as to where he will end up in the championship come the end of 2005?
My goal this very moment is to leave as many as possible other drivers behind me at every single race weekend, and I hope that when the time comes to show the final account of the season I will be holding one of the top positions. But this is not worrying me much at the moment.
So what does Heidfeld believe will be the biggest challenge this year?
Oh, it is a very personal one - Patricia and I expect our first child in August and as this is a lifelong commitment it has a much bigger importance than anything else.
And his biggest hope for this year?
To transform into a good daddy.