Exclusive interview - BMW Saubers Nick Heidfeld 25 Jul 2008
Nick Heidfeld is back. The BMW Sauber driver has endured some dark days this season but excellent results at Silverstone and Hockenheim have signalled the beginning of Heidfelds renaissance.
Not only is his performance in the F1.08 improving all the time, but he has even started to close the gap on team mate Robert Kubica in the standings. We caught up with the German to talk about his improved 2008 form, and his hopes for the forthcoming Hungarian round and beyond
Q: A home Grand Prix is special for every driver, with lots of cheering fans in attendance and the added pressure to do well. Did your home crowd help you along?
Nick Heidfeld: Its all true except for the pressure. I dont feel more pressure. In fact, it is more fun to drive there, even if my home race is the busiest of the season in terms of commitments. The fans make it all worthwhile.
Q: Your qualifying performance at Hockenheim was still disappointing
NH: Of course I was not satisfied with my qualifying. Especially as my weekend didnt seem to be going too badly compared to the test that we had a week before, where I struggled with the balance. We then made some changes and it all went well, up until Q2 - where it really matters. I made a mistake and wasnt able to do a good lap.
Q: From 12th on the grid, did you expect to be able to walk away with five points?
NH: If you start from row six a lot depends on the circumstances and what other teams do. Fortunately it is a track where overtaking is still possible - although its not easy. But as our minimum target is always to be in the points, I am more than satisfied with my result, especially if you take my starting position into consideration.
Q: Earlier this season many stories were written about your troubles in the car. You have since answered your critics with second place at Silverstone and now fourth in Hockenheim
NH: I have been in Formula One long enough not to overestimate all those stories. What really bothered me was that I really had some problems, although they had nothing to do with those mentioned in the press. And my results at Silverstone and Hockenheim have shown that I have left all that behind.
Q: And how was the situation in the team? Did BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen take you to one side to find out the cause of your troubles?
NH: Of course we did speak more than normal to try and understand the problems I had, which were clearly mainly in qualifying. But those problems were different to those responsible for my 12th position in Hockenheim. I also spent a lot more time with the engineers to try and find solutions.
Q: You went from 14th in Monaco to second in Canada, before finishing 13th in France and second at the British race. Do you know why your performances were so diverse?
NH: Well, I think one part of that was me but also it was down to the car. Although it is one of the most consistent on the grid it was not perfect all the time. In Magny-Cours we had a car that was not really strong. In Monaco I could have achieved a good result, as I was on a really good strategy, but after Alonso crashed into my car, all the aero parts were basically destroyed and that ended any dreams of a good result.
Q: The teams expectations have obviously skyrocketed. Whilst last season, with three second-place finishes under your belt, you would have been a hero, this year, if it doesnt happen all the time, theres talk of a crisis. How do you cope?
NH: Well, you always change the targets depending on the car you have. We are achieving more but sometimes you have to adjust your targets. Like in Magny-Cours, where the car wasnt too good, we would have been extremely happy with a podium.
Q: And how much motivation do you get from Robert Kubicas performances?
NH: At times in the season it has shown me that I did not get the best out of the car. But it is beneficial having the data and knowing that he gets on very well with the car. And it is also good seeing that in the races my performances have been similar to Roberts quite often. I would call it a good benchmark at the moment.
Q: There hasnt been much time for you to catch your breath since Hockenheim, with this weeks Jerez test following hot on the heels of the German round. What have you focused you attentions on during the Spanish test?
NH: On my first test day we concentrated on development work with the slick tyres for 2009 and collected valuable data for next years car, whereas today I will focus on set-up solutions for next weeks Hungarian Grand Prix. I am pretty confident that we will be able to show a good level of performance in Budapest.
Q: And what about your future? Will you stay with BMW Sauber next season? When will the team make a decision?
NH: With BMW Sauber we are not allowed to speak about contracts so I cant talk about next year. But what I can say is that I feel very confident in the team. I have a lot of backing, even when I had problems, which was really helpful. And as we have achieved all the targets that we have set ourselves so far, our target for next year is to fight for the championship, and of course I would like to stay with the team for that.