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Q&A with BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld 17 Jan 2007

Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1. BMW Sauber F1.07 First Run, Valencia, Spain, 16 January 2007. World © Sutton.

After taking BMW Sauber’s 2007 car for its first spin, Nick Heidfeld talks about fans, family and race weekend routines...

Q: How important are your fans for you?
Nick Heidfeld:
Very! I think we have one of the best fan clubs of all. There’s a good atmosphere. But I’m not at the centre of things to the extent one might imagine. Of course it’s about me, but it’s also about having fun together. The atmosphere is relaxed. We go karting and partying together. At the race track I naturally meet most of my fans at races in Germany. I really enjoy that and it’s a great support. From that point of view I’m disappointed that we will only be having one Grand Prix in Germany from now on. But you also have to see it from the point of view that it was great to have two Grand Prixs for such a long time. Fans abroad are always an interesting reflection of the mentality and culture of the country. Asians, for example, are shy as long as they are alone. But once you get a group of them - and that can be two or three people - they start to mob you. Things quickly descend into chaos, and it can be very amusing.

Q: Your girlfriend Patricia didn’t attend so many races in 2006. Do you miss her company?
Definitely. I always like to have my family, and especially Patricia, around me at races. During the day there’s no time for them of course, but there is in the evenings, and that takes your mind off things. You can talk about other matters, which is important. Since we’ve had little Juni - who will be two in July - her needs have taken priority. You can’t keep travelling around the world with a baby in tow, and she would be totally out of place in the paddock. When Patricia and Juni accompany me, Grandma usually comes along as well and looks after Juni in the hotel.

Q: Do you ring up and report home after each practice session?
No. Only if I have an accident do I get in touch straightaway to put their minds at rest. But I don’t bore Patricia telling her which rear wing setting was better in which turn. We phone a lot but then we talk about other things and about Juni. Videophoning is fantastic. That way I was able to witness live how my daughter took her first steps, even though I wasn’t at home.

Q: Formula One racing has changed since you made your debut in 2000. Have you changed as well - your driving style, your approach?
Technical modifications or changes to the rules influence your driving style. With the less powerful V8 engines, for example, you have to take the corners slightly differently than you used to with the V10 engines. Because the engines have to last longer, it means you sometimes cut down on engine speed. Essentially my driving style has been refined over the years. In a go-kart I was still known as a metal-basher, but already by my Formula Ford days I was treating the material and the tyres with care. That is still the case today. My general approach to Formula One has certainly become a bit cooler, and the initial respect has given way to routine. What has also changed over the years is that I don’t stay in the paddock as long in the evenings. I’m still one of the last drivers to leave, but in the past I often stayed till midnight, poring over data. Eventually you can’t see the wood for the trees any more, and your sleep suffers.

Q: What does security mean for you?
Privately security means having a healthy family and enough money to let you sleep in peace. In private and in motor sport, there’s no such thing as absolute security. The cars and the race tracks have got significantly safer over the years, but there’s still an element of risk. If wheels touch or visibility is bad in a wet race, things get dangerous. Everyone has to decide for himself whether to take these risks or not. For me the answer is a clear affirmative.