Nick Heidfeld Q&A: I’ve done a good job for Renault

Formula One veteran Nick Heidfeld looks set to make an unexpected return to the grid in 2011 after an impressive Saturday test outing at Jerez for Renault, the team in the unfortunate position of needing a stand-in for injured star driver Robert Kubica. Heidfeld and team principal Eric Boullier were seen locked in deep conversation over the lunch break, the body language of both very positive. Add to this the fact that the German topped the timesheets at the end of the day and the guess must be that we’ll be seeing much more of Heidfeld this season…

Q: Nick, today was something of a crucial day in your career. How did you deal with that?
Nick Heidfeld:
As somebody lately said rightfully: I’ve been in such a situation before. So I naturally did the best I could to get me a future drive - but in the end it’s only testing and not racing so the team expects a profound feedback to enhance the car. That’s actually what I did. I think that the car was already different in the afternoon from where I’d picked it up in the morning. I think we’ve improved it over the course of a test session.

Q: So you have the impression that it was a good working situation?
Yes, we have already started to improve the car and tried to detect where the strengths and the weaknesses are.

Q: Does that mean you walk away from this test with the confidence that you’ve given your best - and that it is now up to the team to make up their minds?
I have been pretty pleased with how it went today and I have not let thoughts about their possible decision distract me from performing. It does not help to think about what they might tell you when you get out of the car - it simply takes away concentration.

Q: But must not the dice fall in your favour? After 15 laps you’d already been faster by six-tenths than possible team mate Vitaly Petrov. Doesn’t that speak for itself?
The question is what others would have done after 15 laps. But yes, I think I’ve done a good job. What others interpret into that time is not up to me - and it is always the same thing: we don’t know what programme Vitaly was running on.

Q: Can you sum up this last week, from last Sunday morning when you were pretty sure that F1 would go on without you this year, to this very moment when you had the chance to deliver a good performance in Jerez on Saturday afternoon?
The first news was that I saw on the internet that Robert had an accident in Italy last Sunday. First the talk was that he had injured his leg. The first thought of course was that I hoped that it is not too bad. The second thought then was probably I could step in for him. I was locked into the internet to find out what was going on and the real unhappy aspect was that if it is worse for him it could be better for me. This is a very oppressive feeling. You don’t want anything bad for someone. On the other hand it can mean a real chance for yourself.

Q: When did the team get in contact with you?
I want to point out that the team contacted me, and not vice versa. I know that some drivers contacted the team. On Tuesday I was already visiting the team in Enstone and was speaking with Eric and the engineers - but no seat fitting then. The seat was done in Jerez in two nights because during the days Vitaly was driving. The first night - Thursday - we were working until 3am, and on Friday until 2am. On Wednesday I was heading home to get my license - as a Formula One license at that time was not very high on the agenda - and from one moment to the other it became a paramount issue.

Q: Was there anything else on your agenda for this season had there not been Robert’s accident?
We’ve been speaking with Mercedes GP for the same position as last year: test and reserve driver. Sure, you start to think about other options. DTM was on my list - I thought that this could be something - but clearly F1 was always my priority.

Q: You seem to attract precarious situations. Was there ever the fear that this was it for you in F1?
Fear no, worries yes. Naturally there was the chance that I might end up without any position in F1, but then I would have worked to get back in the course of the season - just like I did last year.

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