No one has turned things around faster this season than Nick Heidfeld, and as he gears up for his home grand prix fresh from a dazzling drive in the wet at Silverstone, all the signs are that BMW Sauber are poised for a strong showing on home turf.
After an impressive second place at the season-opening grand prix at Australia, Heidfeld’s season something took a nose dive. The German ace battled with tyre warming issues in qualifying and found himself consistently beaten by team-mate Robert Kubica, and even on occasion struggling to progress to Q3.
The trend carried into race day where Kubica continued to shine, no more so than in Montreal where he scythed his way through the chaos to his maiden victory, despite stopping an extra time than Heidfeld.
But against the back-drop of some trying races, not to mention a barrage of rumours linking other drivers to his seat for 2009, he worked hard to address the problems he was having in qualifying, and in Magny-Cours he came within 0.060 seconds of Kubica in Q2.
Then came the rain at Silverstone. Heidfeld had already signalled his return to the sharp-end of the grid with a sterling fifth position in qualifying, but as the wet-stuff lashed down on the Northants track on race day, the BMW ace began to demonstrate that he his every bit the threat to McLaren and Ferrari that team-mate Robert Kubica is.
The highlight was a breath-taking double overtake on Kimi Raikkonen and Heikki Kovalainen at Luffield which set him on his way to this third podium of the season and the tenth of his career.
“It was just brilliant,” reflected Heidfeld. Qualifying finally went well again, and in the race everything slotted into place. The team did everything right and I also avoided making any mistakes.”
“It’s always satisfying when passing moves come off; winning a head-to-head battle fair and square is as good as it gets. And if you can overtake two other guys in the same move twice in the same race, the thrill is that much greater. Especially as it was a Ferrari and a McLaren I got past on one of those occasions.”
“I actually find overtaking easiest in tricky conditions. The differences between the individual drivers are just greater in the rain. Plus, different drivers take different lines through the corners, which naturally helps with overtaking.”
Going into the remaining nine races, Heidfeld is confident that he has overcome the problems he was having heating up his Bridgestone Potenzas in the early part of the season.
“What is certain is that our work has paid off. The team has given me tremendous support. We conducted a complicated analysis of the situation and took measures to enable me to make better use of the tyres for a single hot lap.”
“As an outsider it’s tempting to think that all it takes to get the tyres up to optimum temperature is a couple of burnouts. But that only heats up the contact area of the rear tyres. It is a complex issue, and the Barcelona test in June already produced a degree of progress.”
“We undid some of the good work with our poor performance overall at Magny-Cours, but for me it was important to see that I was back up to the same level as my team-mate in the second period of qualifying. That was the case again at Silverstone. However, we will not be easing off now; I’m sure that there is a lot more we can do to further improve my performance in qualifying.”
“Clearly, it gives me an extra push to go into my home GP on the back of a podium finish in the last race. I want to keep heading in the same direction – get a good position on the grid and do as well as possible in the race itself.”
“I’m really looking forward to what is BMW’s home grand prix as well as mine personally. Plus, Hockenheim always attracts a particularly large number of fans from Switzerland as well, and I’m determined to put on a great performance for them.”