Q & A with Nick Heidfeld

Conducted and provided by BMW Sauber's press office.

Q & A with Nick Heidfeld

Q. Nick Heidfeld, are you happy with the team's preparations for the season so far?

Nick Heidfeld: "This year our preparations have been like a journey of discovery. There are so many new things about the car which all of us have had to get to grips with, and that's a lot of fun. As far as I'm concerned, the testing we've conducted so far has been very positive. The F1.09 is already driving pretty well for a completely newly developed car and it reacts well to changes in set-up.

"We can still improve on reliability but at no time have we been confronted by unsolvable problems and we have racked up more miles than several of our rivals. However, the restrictions on testing mean that every lost mile on the track tends to hurt. We've been able to make consistent improvements and still have a lot more ideas which we can develop.

"Unfortunately, I can't say where this puts us in comparison with our rivals - everybody keeps their cards close to their chests in testing. You never know exactly what kind of programme the other teams are running, let alone how much fuel they have on board. I'll be happy when all the guessing games come to an end in Melbourne."

Q. Which of the changes to the car do you like most?

NH: "Firstly, I think the idea underpinning all the changes is the right one; after all, the aim was to make overtaking easier. I also think that the interplay of the various factors will have an effect here, if only to a certain degree - Formula One is not about to suddenly become like touring car racing. I'm pleased to see the return of slick tyres.

"I never liked the fact that, in Formula One of all competitions, we didn't have slicks for such a long time. The effects of the noticeably reduced downforce on the cars' aerodynamics require an adjustment in driving style."

Q. Can you explain to us when and how you gain by adjusting the front wing from your steering wheel, as the regulations now allow.

NH: "It can enhance the car's balance in various types of corner. However, we are only allowed to use this system twice per lap - i.e. we can make one adjustment to the wing and then return it to its original setting. I doubt whether it really helps in terms of making overtaking easier, but that's something we'll see in the races."

Q. And how are you getting on with the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS)?

NH: "This is good fun as well. It's great when you press the Boost button on the steering wheel and feel the extra shove of 80 horsepower. In testing I also got my first experience of how it feels when another driver presses the button and you don't - you're just left standing. You have to plan really well how you use this additional power, and that's the job of the driver during the race. We are allowed to press the button for 6.5 seconds per lap.

"The system's main advantage is for overtaking when you're up close behind someone, for example in the opening stages of a race. As soon as we have reached 100 km/h - and that takes less than three seconds - the electronics release the Boost button. You just need to have charged up the energy storage unit first, of course."

Q. Aren't all these functions confusing for you as a driver?

NH: "You get used to them. Although I'd have to say that my steering wheel was clearer when we still had our own BMW electronics, before the introduction of the standard F1 electronics. Back then we had some clever sub-levels for various functions."

Q. What is your personal aim for the season?

NH: "That's been the same for years. My goal is to get everything possible out of the car and the situation on each lap and each race weekend. What is actually possible is determined to a large degree by our technical performance. The aim of the team is to be involved in the title battle in 2009. In the past few years we have always met our intermediate targets and I hope we manage to do that again in 2009."

Q. Which would mean you'd have a good chance of recording your maiden Grand Prix victory...

NH: "Yes, in order to do that you have to have a car underneath you that is capable of winning. That's what I'm hoping for, of course, and that's what we are working to achieve."

Q. What is your contribution here?

NH: "I provide as much input as I can in the development of the car. I explain to our engineers exactly how the car feels and where I'd like things improved. I'm not a development engineer, but I think that my experience enables me to offer feedback which can bring the team forwards. Another aspect is my physical fitness. I've done more fitness training this winter than ever before, and it has helped that we've had more time available due to the testing restrictions. I feel extremely fit now."

Q. Have you also been on a starvation diet? There has been much written about a slimming mania in Formula One.

NH: "No, I haven't been on a starvation diet, and that would also be the wrong way to go. There is a connection between weight and performance. Hardcore dieting only weakens you. But I have been paying a lot of attention to what I eat and have gradually lost two-and-a-half kilos despite the extra muscle I've built up in training."

Q. Given the restrictions on testing, will you also need to step up your training programme during the season?

NH: "For sure. The best fitness training for a Formula One driver is driving a Formula One car. We'll need to make up for spending less time in the car."

Q. Will you still have time to get married? You're engaged now, of course...

NH: "We haven't set a date yet, but that won't create a problem. The ban on testing should make it possible."

Q. What's your view on the cost-cutting approach adopted by Formula One?

NH: "I think it's very important, and some of the ideas are already bearing fruit. Each driver now only has eight engines for the whole season, for example, and we won't be doing any more testing from the middle of March. This is the first time that the teams involved in the World Championship have agreed on such major changes.

Q. And that is something that should be warmly welcomed in the current economic climate." the Even if you are hit in the pocket as a result?

NH: "Nobody is happy about salary cuts. The driver is clearly an important factor in the team. BMW draws up an objective cost-benefit analysis for every area of the team's budget and has never paid "fantasy" salaries. As in the past, it's just about reaching an agreement."

Heidfeld hopeful on BMW's title chances
Previous article

Heidfeld hopeful on BMW's title chances

Next article

Q & A with Bridgestone's Kobayashi

Q & A with Bridgestone's Kobayashi
Load comments
How Ferrari gained a new edge over McLaren in the best-of-the-rest F1 2021 battle Plus

How Ferrari gained a new edge over McLaren in the best-of-the-rest F1 2021 battle

Supremacy in the McLaren vs Ferrari fight over third place in the constructors’ championship has ebbed and flowed between the two teams so far in the 2021 Formula 1 season. But for several key reasons, right now it seems the advantage has swung decisively back to the Scuderia and McLaren knows it.

The 70s US superteam that tried and failed to crack F1 Plus

The 70s US superteam that tried and failed to crack F1

Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing was briefly one of the biggest names on the US motorsports scene, but its ambition outstripped its resources. STUART CODLING relates the story of a Formula 1 campaign cut off in its prime

Formula 1
Oct 26, 2021
The key details that boosted Red Bull and held back Hamilton in Verstappen’s USA victory Plus

The key details that boosted Red Bull and held back Hamilton in Verstappen’s USA victory

As the 2021 Formula 1 title battle winds towards its climax, the United States GP added another thrilling act in the Lewis Hamilton-Max Verstappen battle. Although Hamilton aced the start, Verstappen and Red Bull took the initiative with strategy and were richly rewarded, despite Mercedes' best efforts as the race went down to the wire

Formula 1
Oct 25, 2021
US Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

US Grand Prix Driver Ratings

On a baking hot afternoon at the returning Circuit of the Americas, Formula 1 drivers were tested to their limits. As the pressure on the title contending squads reaches an ever-greater level of intensity, the foremost challengers again showed their class, but were outshone by a standout drive from the upper midfield

Formula 1
Oct 25, 2021
Why F1's misunderstood party animal will thrive in retirement Plus

Why F1's misunderstood party animal will thrive in retirement

Three years on from Kimi Raikkonen's last Grand Prix victory at Austin, he is now six races away from ending the longest Formula 1 career in history. His friend and former Ice1 Racing rally team PR man ANTHONY PEACOCK explains why there’s nobody quite like the 2007 world champion and why F1 will miss him (but he won’t miss it)

Formula 1
Oct 24, 2021
The 10 greatest drives of lost legend Jo Siffert Plus

The 10 greatest drives of lost legend Jo Siffert

It's 50 years since Jo Siffert was killed in his prime at Brands Hatch. The Swiss scored just two world championship wins in a Formula 1 career spent largely with privateer teams, but showed on numerous occasions in single-seaters and in sportscars with Porsche that he could beat any of the best drivers of his era given the right equipment

Formula 1
Oct 24, 2021
Verstappen exclusive: How Red Bull’s ace has become F1 champion material Plus

Verstappen exclusive: How Red Bull’s ace has become F1 champion material

As Red Bull and Honda go all-out for victory in the Japanese engine manufacturer’s last season of its latest Formula 1 dalliance, Max Verstappen finds himself thrust into a compelling title fight with Lewis Hamilton. He told OLEG KARPOV about his evolution into a world championship contender and why Red Bull's no compromise ethos suits him down to the ground

Formula 1
Oct 23, 2021
How Mercedes went from Austin practice domination to "very tight at the front" with Red Bull Plus

How Mercedes went from Austin practice domination to "very tight at the front" with Red Bull

Mercedes has been on a roll of late in the ultra-tight fight to win the 2021 Formula 1 world championship. It started off well in practice at Austin for this weekend’s US Grand Prix, but Red Bull got closer as Friday unfolded and even seemed to find an edge in one critical area of what seems set to be another close contest

Formula 1
Oct 23, 2021