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Exclusive interview - BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld 09 May 2008

Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Turkish Grand Prix, Preparations, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Thursday, 8 May 2008 Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1.08.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Spanish Grand Prix, Race, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 27 April 2008 Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1 plays table football.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Turkish Grand Prix, Preparations, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Thursday, 8 May 2008 Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Turkish Grand Prix, Preparations, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Thursday, 8 May 2008 Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1.08.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Qualifying Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 15 March 2008

He’s arguably the most underestimated driver on the grid, but then again Nick Heidfeld has never been one to crave attention. Confident of his own ability - even when others have been writing him off - Heidfeld has quietly established himself as a serious podium contender.

Being forced to refuel under the safety car in Spain didn’t help his 2008 championship standing, but the German has promised himself he will finish higher this season than last, and now Turkey is his top priority...

Q: Nick, have you digested the Spanish Grand Prix? How frustrating was your safety car experience?
Nick Heidfeld:
Well, it took some time, but I am over it now. It was bad luck, but that type of bad luck should not exist in Formula One. Barcelona has demonstrated that the safety car rule has room for improvements - and we are working to change it.

Q: Could it have been your day? Mario Theissen said that unlike Robert Kubica’s car yours had been perfect…
NH:
A car is never perfect - unfortunately. Barcelona could have been a good day for me, but I don’t think it would have been my day. If I say my day it at least should have been a place on the podium, but that was not within my reach. I had a good strategy to focus on fifth position - under good circumstances even a fourth place could have been within reach - but that would have been it. And speculations over what could have happened had the team called me in some seconds earlier are meaningless in hindsight.

Q: Falling victim to the safety car regulations can happen to anybody at any race. There is a call for a change to these regulations. What could those changes look like, from the driver’s viewpoint?
NH:
Now that I was the unlucky one everybody comes to me for an answer. I don’t like the idea that people think because I was affected I started to criticize. Fact is that all the drivers and the GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers Association) have been complaining for months prior to the Barcelona incident to have these rules changed. Now we have to find something that works better. Me personally, I would like to go back to the old rules, but that doesn’t seem to be feasible due to safety concerns. Now we have to wait and see.

Q: You arrived in Barcelona second in the standings and left it in fifth - an indication of how tight the points situation is behind leader Kimi Raikkonen, and proof that every race can make a big difference. What are your expectations for this weekend?
NH:
Of course this (safety car) relegation hurt, but I am very confident to gain back some places. Last year I ended the season fifth in the championship and I promised myself that his year I will do better. What I expect for this weekend? Sure, nothing spectacular. We will see Ferrari ahead of everybody, and us and McLaren not far behind - the ‘usual’ scenario as we have seen it in the first couple of races.

Q: Everybody talks about Turn Eight at Istanbul Park. Can you explain the characteristics of that section? Is it the crux of the lap?
NH:
Turn Eight is special because it is unique in Formula One - in fact I don’t know any other circuit that has a corner like this - which is that quick and that long. You do it at far more than 200km/h. It is an outstanding corner that is great fun. It is not that kind of ‘divides the men from the boys’ corner like Eau Rouge in Spa, it is a real drivers’ corner, the reason we go racing - going fast and having fun.

Q: The team came to Istanbul with more detail improvements to the F1.08. In what areas?
NH:
Mainly on the aero side, but nothing that comes close to the volume of changes before the Barcelona race. Our focus here is to find something that suits the downforce level and I am quite confident that they will work.

Q: Ferrari seem to be in a league of their own at the moment, but between BMW-Sauber and McLaren it’s hard to say who’s on top. What is your gut feeling?
NH:
We are in a close fight with McLaren - sometimes they end up on top, sometimes we do and I hope that the small changes on our car will give us the upper hand. Except for Australia we have been a little stronger most of the time. That is also what I expect here, though I naturally only know what we have changed on our car - I don’t know about them.

Q: BMW-Sauber are envied by every team - probably with the exception of only Ferrari and McLaren - for their incredible development speed. What would you name as the key factors in that from a driver’s perspective? How much does a driver contribute to taking such a great leap forward?
NH:
A driver is important, but not as important as the job that the team does. A team consists of hundreds of people who all are experts in their fields, so it is not the case that a driver comes in and points at a part and demands a change. Ideally the driver is a good source for the engineers to tell them how the car behaves and if he’s got lots of experience he tells them where else to look for improvements.