Q & A with Nick Heidfeld

Nick Heidfeld is not expecting to see a different competitive order in Bahrain, despite his BMW team testing at Sakhir during the winter. Nevertheless the German remains upbeat about the team's chances of improving as Formula 1 moves back to Europe in two weeks. AUTOSPORT listened to what he had to say to the press on Thursday

Q & A with Nick Heidfeld

Q. You were one of the few teams that tested here in the winter, do you think it's going to be a big benefit?

Nick Heidfeld: No. I hope it's going to be a benefit, but I'm sure it's only going to be a small one. Because we did three tests after Bahrain and we learned so much that we will not start with the set-ups with which we finished here. So if anything, it's going to be a small advantage.

Q. So you expect a similar performance this weekend?

NH: I think in the first three races our performance got a little worse, step by step. I guess because some of the other teams brought updates which we didn't have. As we have no major changes here I don't expect a very different picture. It depends more on the others bringing updates again or not. But compared to what we had in China I don't expect too many differences. Before China there was talk of McLaren, Renault, a couple of teams bringing updates, so it's probably more about how the car suits the track and how well we get everything together, as the laptimes in the midfield, where we are now unfortunately, are very close together.

Q. Are you worried that you will take a step backwards this weekend?

NH: No, because I don't think the other teams have a lot of updates here. Otherwise, yeah.

Q. So your big hope is for Spain, with big updates?

NH: Yeah, definitely. I think it's going to be a reasonable step, especially taking into consideration how close the times are. But on the other hand, everybody brings updates for the first European race, so again, the question is how big the updates of the others are going to be.

Q. Are you worried about the points gap to the other teams?

NH: I think it's going to be very difficult from Barcelona. Hopefully we will have a good car there to win back some points compared to the others. Firstly because the advantage that they have, especially Brawn but now also Red Bull, is quite big in laptimes. So even if we make a good step it might bring us closer to them and hopefully to the front of the midfield. But obviously I don't know how it's going to be. I think it's unlikely that we just catch up with them, because they develop their cars as well. After here, we already have four races behind us, which is already quite a big percentage of the season behind us.

Q. Do you think BMW is out of the running then?

NH: I think you cannot say that. Of course we are still fighting very hard and anything can happen, and it's getting more and more unlikely but I wouldn't rule it out.

Q. Did you expect such a bad start to the season?

NH: It's not easy to answer that one, but trying to answer it... I guess we didn't have enough updates, not new parts in the first couple of races. During winter testing we were quite happy with our pace. Also you never know how much fuel the others have, but you analyse the data and the laptimes and we thought we were in a good position. But then I think we just lacked development.

Q. Why?

NH: That's the part that's more difficult to answer. It's something that we analysis and discussing internally but not externally.

Q. How discouraging is it to show decent pace in testing and then not having a fast car as planned?

NH: It's tough but it doesn't change the way you work, which is the most important thing, because the target remains the same: to fight for the championship. It's no use crying or moaning about what happened, you just need to keep your head up and achieve the maximum you can, so it doesn't really matter so much.

Q. Are you running KERS this weekend?

NH: Yes, it's planned that I run it this weekend, and as we had it here in testing it seemed quite positive. I think it's a bit easier to judge if it works here or not.

Q. How do you rate the advantages and disadvantages of KERS?

NH: I think by now, after three races, it's quite obvious that it's not as straightforward as one might have thought before the season. A couple of teams took it out because of performance reasons. In our team I do run it, Robert doesn't. Ferrari doesn't want it because of safety issues. I think that explains how difficult to judge the benefits or the down sides that you have.

Q. You have a say in deciding to run it or not?

NH: Of course I have a say, but I have the feeling in China would have been better without it. You have to take into consideration all the data, my feeling and experience and then decide. And then the team did decide to run it. So that's how it works.

Q. Do you think the benefits will be bigger at this track?

NH: I guess so. In testing it worked okay. Obviously in the first few races we hadn't not tested it before, so on Friday it was the first outing with it in the car. And you need to balance the car and you need to try and find out what's better, because as I said, it's not so straightforward. So it should make it a bit easier here to go in the right direction.

Q. Do you think the time and money spent in development is worth it?

NH: I believe that with time it will become more of an advantage. The question is how quick that happens and that's very difficult to judge now. Obviously it's not about the extra power that it generates, but it's about the car balance, the centre of gravity and the other effects it has on the car. For sure it has potential, but it's more difficult to handle and to maximise than I expected. When I first heard about KERS I thought "OK, you put it in the car, it's full, you boost. That's it. It should be quicker.' But it's not that easy to handle.

Q. How much does it mean this record of yours to have had 24 consecutive classified finishes?

NH: At least it's some record, so it's better than nothing. I think it's 23 or 24, I think Michael (Schumacher) has one more than me. I think it's 23, so I hope here I can finish and have 24. It's a nice record to have. I actually like records and I'm interested in them. I know that Michael never worried about it so much but he has all of them. But I find it interesting to look at this stuff. But obviously I'd rather have more wins than zero.

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