A race weekend with Nick Heidfeld 11 Jun 2008
For the entire BMW Sauber team the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix will be a treasured memory. And although it was Robert Kubica who finished on the top step, team mate Nick Heidfeld had more than enough cause to celebrate thanks to his second-place finish. As the sun set on the German-Swiss teams triumphant one-two, we caught up with Heidfeld to find out about his time in Canada and discover a little more about how he likes to spend his time in the office over a race weekend
Q: We were in Montreal this weekend, what do you associate with this circuit?
Nick Heidfeld: I always associate with the city more than the circuit. For sure this time everything is different. It was the maiden win of the team and moreover it was a one-two finish. For a team can it get any better? Being on the podium with Robert (Kubica) and Mario (Theissen) it was a clear indication that we have arrived at the top. This weekend will stay in all our memories as something very, very special.
Q: You dont take to the track until Friday morning, but when do you like to fly in to a race?
NH: At overseas races we have to fly in early anyway, as we have to get used to the time zone. This time I arrived on Monday evening.
Q: Do you make an effort to discover your surroundings at a race, or do you stick to the airport-hotel-track-airport itinerary?
NH: In Europe it is very much like that, but when we are overseas we have a little bit more time. For example, this year I spent Tuesday walking around the city and doing a little bit of shopping. On Wednesday I had a PR day for one sponsor, and we went to a gallery, which I liked anyway and I would have visited myself. On Thursday I had to be at the track earlier than normal, because of the time difference to Europe, so the media could fit it into their magazines.
Q: Whats your exercise regime over a race weekend? Does it vary according to the race location, demands of the circuit etc?
NH: It differs before the race weekend, but not during the weekend itself. For Montreal, its not that particular, but for other circuits we simulate the temperature conditions. For circuits where we race anti-clockwise, for example in Turkey and Brazil, we do a little bit more training.
Q: Whats your preferred accommodation at races - city hotel, hotel near the circuit or your own motorhome near the paddock?
NH: It depends on the availability and how far the hotel is away from the track. In the first year of the Turkish Grand Prix we thought that it would take us three hours to get into the city, so I rented a motorhome that was at the track. But we have now realized that the ride is much shorter, so I switched for a hotel in town. Also now I always have a scooter with me, so I can find my way around. During testing I dont like staying in the motorhome, but in a hotel in town, as its important for me to switch my mind to other things as well.
Q: Anything you have to have provided in your hotel room, or any luxuries you always bring with you from home?
NH: Basically no. Just the common stuff, like my computer and my mobile phone, on which I have stored a lot of music.
Q: Are you able to entertain friends and family during a race weekend?
NH: Unfortunately, not at all. They come and visit some races from time to time, but luckily they have known me and the business for such a long time that they know that I dont have any time for them. If I do have some spare time then I definitely spend it with them.
Q: Do you get the chance to go out and socialize on Friday and Saturday night?
NH: More likely on Saturdays, as on Fridays I have a lot of work to do with the engineers. On Saturday I like to go out for dinner, as I want to get away from the circuit to get some freedom.
Q: Any drivers you particularly like hanging out with?
NH: Well, I get on very well with Robert, as he is my team mate and we spend more time together than I spend with any other driver. And then from time to time I play a little poker with various other drivers, and I get along with all of them very well.
Q: Your favourite race for nightlife?
NH: That is definitely Monaco, as I usually stay there until Monday. The last couple of years I had a very good time there, as we went to Amber Lounge, or the traditional clubs. And this year in particular as I went to Vijays (Mallya) boat, which I liked a lot.
Q: Whats the best night out youve had at a Grand Prix? And have you ever overslept the next morning?
NH: In fact I did, but luckily it was a Monday. I had some fantastic nights in Monaco, and the best one in Japan, where I visited a karaoke bar and was singing until the morning.
Q: What do you have for breakfast on a race Sunday?
NH: Normally some muesli, fruit and some toast with salmon and some fried eggs.
Q: How much do you drink over a race weekend? And what?
NH: I have to force myself to drink enough, as I am not very good at that. During the race weekends it is easier, as there are beverages everywhere, and my physio is around all the time.
Q: How do you spend the morning on race Sunday?
NH: Unfortunately, there is no warm-up anymore, as there used to be some years ago. The race starts relatively late, so we have the whole morning to do nothing, which I dont like. In most cases the team will find something to do, like PR work and interviews.
Q: How do you like to get to the circuit on Sunday morning? Do you drive yourself?
NH: Yes, I always drive myself. If it is in Europe, and not raining, I come on the scooter.
Q: How do you like to spend the hour or so before the race? Any superstitions or pre-race rituals you always go through to bring you luck?
NH: I dont have a particular superstitions, but I have a routine that I always follow. Mostly it comes down to having a few moments by myself, to calm down, close my eyes and focus on the race and what might come. Also I go through one lap, corner by corner, thinking about strategies.
Q: Do you have a lucky charm?
Q: What do you do to stay calm as youre sat on the grid awaiting the formation lap?
NH: It is very similar to the 10 minutes that I spent alone before the race. Over the years you know how your body and mind reacts, and I try to get to the right level. Focusing on not being too nervous and not being too calm.
Q: How do you wind down after the race?
NH: That is not very easy, as there are meetings with the engineers or, if everything goes well, the podium and interviews afterwards. So it is quite hard to find some time to wind down, especially when you travel home on the Sunday too. Sometimes the relaxing phase already starts on the slowing-down lap, as you go back to the pits.
Q: If things dont go your way and you retire early, do you prefer to get away as soon as possible, or hang out and watch the rest of the race?
NH: Quite often I would like to leave as early as possible, because it is not very enjoyable to see the others racing. If you had a contact with another car, then you have to wait, as you might have to go to the stewards.