Q & A with Nick Heidfeld

Fresh from BMW's encouraging Belgian Grand Prix weekend, Nick Heidfeld was optimistic about his chances for Monza when he met the media - including AUTOSPORT - in the paddock this morning. But he also had bigger issues than Italian GP race form on his mind, amid the uncertainty over his and his team's Formula 1 future, and the Renault 'race fixing' scandal

Q & A with Nick Heidfeld

Q. The car went quite well at Spa, how do you think it will go here?

Nick Heidfeld: It went very well at Spa and we hope to have a similar performance here. But obviously it's very difficult to predict, as the downforce is not the same. It goes in a similar direction to Spa, with less downforce [than elsewhere] but even more so. So we have a different front wing, a different rear wing. The fact that in the past Sauber and BMW were strong here all points in a good direction, but that doesn't mean that it's going to happen.

Q. Will not having KERS be a problem?

NH: I think KERS should have the biggest advantage here of the whole season. For the start, because you can use it quite early out of the low speed corners, for the long straights, and especially for qualifying, because the straight until the line is so long that you use it effectively twice on your qualifying lap. So they must have a big advantage.

I think the fact that Renault is using it here makes that very clear, because they have not been the biggest fans of it, so there must be a good advantage.

Q. Why is BMW not using it?

NH: We focused a few races ago on the aero, which we can use a lot more effectively by saving space, and the bodywork and everything is so tight that I think it would not fit into it anymore.

On top of that, our system still had problems with not affecting the car under braking. Here you have a lot of hard braking, so I think we would have had some time loss in that phase.

Q. In what ways would it have affected the braking?

NH: Locking the wheels. Ideally it doesn't happen, and from what I understand other teams don't suffer with it. But we did.

Q. How are your talks for next year going?

NH: They are ongoing, but at the moment nothing that can be said or written. It was already quite difficult to know exactly what's going on everywhere, and it's become even more crazy now with Renault, not knowing what's going to happen there, if [Nelson] Piquet did it on purpose, if and how is he going to be penalised, and if you imagine there were talks with Renault pulling out, that would not make the position a lot better. With the fact that apparently Mercedes is looking into taking Brawn over in a couple of years' time... It's all pretty complicated. But I think we are keeping in touch pretty well.

Q. Does this mean the uncertainty will drag on until the end of the season, with things such as Felipe Massa's fitness?

NH: I doubt it will keep on right to the end of the season, not all decisions. I very much hope Felipe will be in the car soon. But that is definitely something that until now people have not been really outspoken about, but of course there is definitely a doubt in some people's minds if he will be the same when he comes back. I think Ferrari is the team to ask what they expect.

Q. Are you looking at the new teams?

NH: No, I'm not speaking to new teams. I tried to follow what they do a bit and get an idea of the situation, because obviously there are also rumours that some teams are not doing a lot and maybe will not be on the grid next year, don't have a lot of money, and whatever. So it's something interesting, something to follow, but there are no teams there I'm talking to at the moment, simply because I don't expect them to be at the front of the grid in the near future. It's impossible.

Q. Is there a chance you could stay at whatever BMW Sauber becomes?

NH: I guess so. For me it would be definitely an option as I think the team should stay very similar to what it is now. It would be important if the finances were good enough to keep most of the people there, because the performance has been good, apart from the beginning of this year. And now hopefully it's going up again, so I beleive that the team could be strong again in the future.

But there's actually not much going on at the moment because nobody knows if or who will be there, so there's nobody to speak to.

Q. Are you surprised by the Renault story?

NH: First of all I'm amazed that it took so long, that nearly a year later it becomes such a big issue, because immediately after the race already in the briefing everybody who was there in the paddock had the thought that it at least looked like it could have been on purpose, but just one year later and suddenly it becomes a big story.

Q. So you had suspicions?

NH: My english is not good enough, I don't know if suspicions is the right word. But I thought about it. But until now I don't know if it was on purpose or not. But when you looked at it, you thought that it might well be the case.

Q. Did the crash itself look unusual to you?

NH: No.

Q. If you or any other driver was asked to crash deliberately, do you think it would be a reasonable thing?

NH: I wouldn't be willing to do it. But again it's rumours all over. There were talks of Piquet maybe therefore keeping his drive for this season after not performing brilliantly compared to [Fernando] Alonso. Maybe that's what could have made him do it. I don't know.

Q. Is it a good idea for a driver to come out with these things just after he has been fired by a team?

NH: If you do it, it would be very strange if you do it before. If you do it, it's already a mistake. Whatever you do afterwards, it doesn't matter. If it really happened, I think it's extreme and unbelievable. After all we've seen in Formula 1 happening over the last couple of years, with some very unexpected things, this for me would be the most amazing one in a negative way.

Q. Given all the work the drivers do together on safety, it would seem strange for a driver to crash deliberately...

NH: Yeah, of course, it would be strange. It was not a slow corner, but it was not somewhere where you might think at least to the driver that crashes something stupid happened. But you never know, if a wheel flies away...

Q. That's the point, can you crash deliberately and be 100 per cent sure nothing bad will happen?

NH: No, you cannot. Like Michael [Schumacher] tried in Monaco, he didn't try hard enough... Maybe Nelson said 'I'll do a little bit more...'

Q. When the drivers were talking about the Singapore GP between themselves, did you think he might have done it deliberately?

NH: It's too long ago, I don't remember. But as I already said, we spoke about it internally after the race and I also spoke about it with many other people, probably also other drivers, yeah. But of course that doesn't mean that we know [it was deliberate]. We were just thinking. If it was the case at all, we have no idea, yes or no.

Q. Did the crash seem strange at that moment?

NH: It didn't seem strange to me that he crashed, but the fact that they had those two strategies and that he crashed at that time just made you think.

Q. It made no sense that Alonso was running light...

NH: Well, the team could obviously argue that on this track there was very likely to be a safety car, so put one stopping very early when probably nobody else was stopping, and the other one very heavy, so you could explain it.

Q. How much proof do you need for the world council to do something about it?

NH: I've no idea, but I'm very interested to see what the outcome will be, and what evidence is said.

Q. Is it easy as a driver to crash on purpose at that particular corner?

NH: No. For sure, it's not easy. You train all your life not to crash and to hold the car, and then to do something like this... Probably you can try not to hurt yourself but even then you cannot be 100 per cent that it will not hurt.

Q. Five races to go this year, four drivers in the hunt for the championship. Who do you see coming out on top?

NH: I would put Jenson Button still [as favourite]. Even though he and the car have struggled in places, he still has a good points lead and there are also a couple of other teams in the mix now at the front who might help Jenson to not have the others pick up so quickly.

Of course it could also go the other way, with Red Bull winning [races], and a lot of the other guys in between them and Jenson. But if you look at his points lead, a couple of years ago if someone had that points lead we would have said 'okay, it's done'. But this year the situation is a bit special.

Heidfeld willing to stay on at BMW team

Previous article

Heidfeld willing to stay on at BMW team

Next article

Alonso 'surprised' by Singapore row

Alonso 'surprised' by Singapore row
Load comments
The hidden Ferrari struggle that Sainz’s recent charge put to rest Plus

The hidden Ferrari struggle that Sainz’s recent charge put to rest

Despite appearing to adjust to life as a Ferrari driver with relative ease, it was far from straightforward under the surface for Carlos Sainz Jr. But, having made breakthroughs in rather different routes at the Russian and Turkish races, he’s now targeting even greater feats for the rest of the Formula 1 season

The final throes of Brazil's fleetingly successful F1 team Plus

The final throes of Brazil's fleetingly successful F1 team

Emerson Fittipaldi is better remembered for his Formula 1 world championships and Indianapolis 500 successes than for the spell running his eponymous F1 team. Despite a hugely talented roll call of staff, it was a period of internal strife, limited funding and few results - as remembered by Autosport's technical consultant

Formula 1
Oct 18, 2021
Why McLaren's expanding agenda will benefit its F1 resurgence Plus

Why McLaren's expanding agenda will benefit its F1 resurgence

In the 1960s and 1970s, McLaren juggled works entries in F1, sportscars and the Indy 500 while building cars for F3 and F2. Now it’s returning to its roots, expanding 
into IndyCars and Extreme E while continuing its F1 renaissance. There’s talk of Formula E and WEC entries too. But is this all too much, too soon? STUART CODLING talks to the man in charge

Formula 1
Oct 17, 2021
How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential Plus

How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential

Yuki Tsunoda arrived in grand prix racing amid a whirlwind of hype, which only increased after his first race impressed the biggest wigs in Formula 1. His road since has been rocky and crash-filled, and OLEG KARPOV asks why Red Bull maintains faith in a driver who admits he isn’t really that big a fan of F1?

Formula 1
Oct 15, 2021
The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages Plus

The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages

OPINION: After Lewis Hamilton responded to reports labelling him 'furious' with Mercedes following his heated exchanges over team radio during the Russian Grand Prix, it provided a snapshot on how Formula 1 broadcasting radio snippets can both illuminate and misrepresent the true situation

Formula 1
Oct 14, 2021
Why F1’s approach to pole winners with grid penalties undermines drivers Plus

Why F1’s approach to pole winners with grid penalties undermines drivers

OPINION: Valtteri Bottas is credited with pole position for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix, despite being beaten in qualifying. This is another example of Formula 1 and the FIA scoring an own goal by forgetting what makes motorsport magic, with the Istanbul race winner also a victim of this in the championship’s recent history

Formula 1
Oct 13, 2021
Turkish Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

Turkish Grand Prix Driver Ratings

On a day that the number two Mercedes enjoyed a rare day in the sun, the Turkish Grand Prix produced several standout drives - not least from a driver who has hit a purple patch of late

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021
The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for shock Turkish GP glory Plus

The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for shock Turkish GP glory

Starting 11th after his engine change grid penalty, Lewis Hamilton faced a tough task to repeat his Turkish Grand Prix heroics of 2020 - despite making strong early progress in the wet. Instead, his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas broke through for a first win of the year to mitigate Max Verstappen re-taking the points lead

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021