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Featured Where Are They Now: Nick Heidfeld

Discussion in 'Formula 1' started by Paul Jeffrey, Jul 26, 2017.

  1. Paul Jeffrey

    Paul Jeffrey
    RaceDepartment Editor-in-Chief Staff Premium

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    Where are they now - Nick_Heidfeld.jpg
    Our feature man of the moment today is a driver who never won a Grand Prix despite his often devastating pace in a Formula One car - Nick Heidfeld.

    Nick Heidfeld, Quick Nick, the Other German, superb on his day and dependable in any race conditions, Heidfeld never quite lived up to his ultimate promise in Formula One, and remains one of the finest drivers never to have tasted the success of a Grand Prix victory.

    To understand just how talented the man from Monchengladbach was on his day, one has to look at the direct comparison against a raft of exceptionally talented teammates throughout Heidfeld's career. Partnered up with big names the likes of Robert Kubica, Jacques Villeneuve, Kimi Räikkönen and Mark Webber, Heidfeld often out performed his more illustrious team mates as he regularly found himself racing much further up the field than the machinery at his disposal necessarily deserved.

    Even to this day fans and insiders of the sport laud the skill and pace of Robert Kubica, however if you look closely at the time the two drivers spend as team mates between 2006 - 2009, Heidfeld beat Kubica over the line on race day 29 times from 52 races, finishing ahead of the Polish star in the final standings for three of their four seasons together.

    Fresh of the back of a stellar junior career, Heidfeld always looked destined to find his way into Formula One from a young age, mainly due to a long standing relationship with the McLaren Formula One team and their main corporate partners at the time,

    Heidfeld would go on to secure a number of high profile championship successes during his apprenticeship within the sport of open wheel racing, eventually culminating in an impressive drivers championship in the Formula One supporting FIA Formula 3000 series (since named GP2 and F2). Alongside his championship winning season in Formula 3000, Heidfeld would also set the still standing lap record at the Goodwood Festival of Speed behind the wheel of a McLaren Grand Prix car, giving a breath-taking and downright scary performance in what today looks like a very major accident just waiting to happen:


    With West backing and German heritage appealing to McLaren engine suppliers Mercedes, Heidfeld was destined to step up to Formula One in 2000 with the newly formed Prost Grand Prix squad, with the blessing from McLaren, in an effort to give the young driver some relevant Grand Prix experience as the team groomed Heidfeld for a potential future in the silver cars.

    Unfortunately for Prost and Heidfeld, 2000 wasn't a happy year for the German driver as team politics, a difficult car and an incredibly fast and experienced team mate in the form of Jean Alesi all conspired to demotivate the young debutant and prevent consistent showings of the obviously potential displayed during his early career.

    Nick Heidfeld Prost F1.jpg

    Leaving the French squad at seasons end, 2001 would see the beginning of a three year association with the Swiss Sauber team, an outfit well known for nurturing young talent and supporting capable drivers not fortunate enough to carry with them the mega budgets required to race at the front of the grid in Formula One.

    Heidfeld would be partnered in his second season of Formula One with another rookie driver, the highly promising young Finn Kimi Räikkönen, who at the tender age of just 21 would be making his first Formula One start in what would be a glittering career that continues to this day.

    2001 would see a much improved performance from Heidfeld as the driver quickly acclimatizes to his new surroundings at Sauber. Much of the season would see the German performing well above what was a typically conservative yet effective car in the form of the Sauber C20, with many outside observers in agreement that the now 24 year-old effectively out performed his high profile rookie team mate over the course of the season.

    Without a serious podium scoring machine under the two rookie team mates, 2001 would be short on big points results, however Heidfeld would score a couple of notable highlights, namely Sauber’s sole podium of the season at the Brazilian Grand Prix and six separate points paying finishes over the course of the season. Heidfeld would end 2001 as the highest placed Sauber driver in the standings, with his 12 points elevating the driver to 8th position overall, some 3 points above Raikkonen and a further 2 places further up the championship standings.

    With such a strong display of form from Heidfeld, many Formula One insiders (and the driver himself) considered a move to the now vacant seat at McLaren for 2002 a forgone conclusion, however in something of a body blow for the young drivers confidence, McLaren opted for the risky move of promoting 2001 team mate Raikonnen to the silver cars, leaving Heidfeld with no realistic option but to remain at Sauber for another season and re build his confidence and reputation within the sport.

    Many believe that the early rejection by McLaren for Heidfeld’s services in 2002 left a black mark against a driver whose reputation was in the ascendancy at that point in time, forcing the youngster to remain at the midfield Sauber team as the impetus behind his career slowly began to fall away.

    2002 would again be a solid season for Heidfeld and Sauber, who now partnered with another young charger in the form of Ferrari test driver Felipe Massa would eventually add four more points finishes to his career tally, securing a best result of fourth place at the Spanish Grand Prix and out ranking his new team mate by seven points to four, leaving him in a respectable 10th place in the final championship standings.

    As had been the case throughout much Heidfeld’s Formula One career, 2002 would be another example of a plainly talented driver constantly out performing his machinery and pushing a Sauber car into points paying contention, over and above more competitive and better funded teams on the Grand Prix grid.

    Nick Heidfield Sauber 2003.jpg

    2003 would see Heidfeld once again passed over by a championship team in place of a team mate he previously out performed, with Massa leaving the Swiss squad to return back to the Ferrari stable for another year behind the scenes prior to making his prancing horse race return, Heidfeld would be faced with his fourth team mate in four seasons, this time in the form of the vastly experienced and race winning Heinz-Harald Frentzen.

    Frentzen and Heidfeld would make for a lively all German partnership throughout the year; often seen sharing the same piece of tarmac in what was something of a strained working relationship.

    Both drivers would spend the season fighting to establish themselves as unofficial team leader at Sauber, with Frentzen holding the advantage thanks to his considerable Grand Prix experience and previous race winning form during his stay at the Jordan Grand Prix squad. Unfortunately pairing the two drivers together proved counterproductive for Sauber on a number of occasions, with contact between the two cars and a general weakening of the working relationship leading to Heidfeld’s departure from the team at seasons end.

    Despite some strong individual races in 2003, Heidfeld would end up behind his team mate in the championship standings at the end of the year, having only managed to wrap up a total of 6 points for fifth position in the penultimate race of the year, against the podium and two other points scores for Frentzen in the sister car.

    Nick Heidfield Jordan.jpg

    Sadly in something of a case of force majeure, Heidfeld would be presented with few competitive options for the 2004 racing season, eventually plumping for a drive with a Jordan team now very far past their best in Formula One. Underfunded and running an uncompetitive Ford engine, the year would be an incredible struggle for Heidfeld, and would yield just three points, despite his domination of team mate Giorgio Pantano and the general consensus that the driver continued to perform above and beyond the capabilities of his reluctant machine. Heidfeld would beat both Pantano and stand in team mate Glock on every occasion bar one in which both cars crossed the finish line, eventually scoring three World Championship points en route to a disappointing 18th place in the drivers’ standings.

    Unsurprisingly Heidfeld’s stay at Jordan would be limited to just the single season, as driver and manager would often be found casting around the Grand Prix paddock in search of better opportunities for the coming year. Eventually Heidfeld would be pitched against another talented driver in the form of Antonio Pizzonia during an off season shootout for the second Williams seat alongside Mark Webber, a challenge in which Heidfeld passed with flying colours, earning himself a seat in a regular points scoring team for the first time in his career.


    Nick Heidfeld Williams.jpg

    2005 would be a good year for the driver, often outperforming the highly regarded Australian Webber and securing his first career Pole Position at the Nürburgring, going on to finish in second place and eventually ending the season with three podium finishes. 2005 wouldn’t be all plain sailing however, as Heidfeld would be unable to see out the year for Williams following injuries sustained in a test and road accident, forcing Heidfeld to stand down in his role for five of the 18 races that season. Despite missing a good chunk of the year, Heidfeld would still finish just one place and eight points behind Webber in the standings, eventually coming home with a career best 28 points and 11th overall.

    Irrespective of the strong performances throughout 2005, Williams would opt to replace Heidfeld for 2006 with future Mercedes World Champion Nico Rosberg, partnering the new recruit with 2005 charge Mark Webber. With Williams suffering a breakdown of relationships with their then engine provider BMW, Heidfeld would follow the manufacturer back to Sauber in what was the first year of the Swiss team having relinquished ownership and management to the German concern.

    Heidfeld would be engaged to lead the new BMW Sauber team for 2006, teaming up with experienced former World Champion Jacques Villeneuve, until the Canadian was unceremoniously dropped by the squad midyear in place of promising rookie Robert Kubica.

    Heidfeld and BMW would immediately bond in a way that hadn’t happened up to that point in the German’s career, with instant results the reward for a driver who had suffered plenty of turmoil in the past couple of seasons.

    Heidfeld would score yet another career podium in what was very much a transition year for BMW and Sauber, as well as effectively ending the career of Former World Champion Jacques Villeneuve in the sister car, with the Canadian finding himself without a drive mid-way through the season in favour of Polish rookie Robert Kubica. Despite much fanfare around the performances and prospects of Kubica in Formula One, Heidfeld would on average outperform the driver not only during 2006, but throughout their four seasons as team mates in the Swiss / German team.

    Heidfeld would end the season in a career best 9th overall in the standings, ahead of both the now departed Villeneuve and part season team mate Kubica, as both driver and team looked to build upon the strong foundation laid down during the year in preparation for a regular podium challenge in the years ahead.

    Nick Heidfeld 2007.jpg

    2007 would prove to be one of Heidfeld’s best seasons in the sport, with measured performances and bold overtaking manoeuvres becoming something of a trademark for a driver commonly known as “Quick Nick”. The 2007 season would yield a whole raft of points scoring finishes for the German competitor, with no less than 13 top six results going the way of the team number one and another career best equalling second place finish in Canada, leading the driver to end the season in 5th position in the overall standings, 22 points and one position above his highly regarded team mate and best of the rest behind the all-conquering Ferrari and McLaren teams.

    Heidfeld would begin to show the cracks in his BMW Sauber relationship throughout 2007, with a couple of on track skirmishes with Kubica and a publically played out row over the media and team hype surrounding the other driver in the team, Heidfeld would find himself in tense times during the winter of 2007 as negotiations over his contract renewal continued to drag on longer than the on track performance of the driver ideally warranted.

    With a 2008 contract in his pocket and with BMW now in the third year of their manufacturer return in Formula One, both Heidfeld and Kubica would start the new year with renewed optimism that regular race victories, and ultimately an outside championship challenge would be possible during the season.

    Heidfeld would start the year strongly with podiums and points in the opening three events of the new season, pushing the BMW star to a briefly held second in the championship standings before a couple of hit and miss races sandwiched between two runners up finishes put the German too far away from a realistic chance of taking up the fight to McLaren and Ferrari.

    The highlight and lowlight of the season for BMW Sauber and Heidfeld would come in Canada, round seven of that year’s championship. Running comfortably at the front of the field at the circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Heidfeld would be asked to cede his position to the lighter car of Kubica and play a defensive role to the Polish star as his team mate made a break at the front of the field. The tactics deployed that day did ensure the first, and so far only one two finish for Sauber and BMW, however the order did eventually lead to the loss of Heidfeld’s best and since only chance of snatching a victory in Formula One racing.

    Heidfeld would end the season with the distinction of becoming only the second driver in history to secure 18 race finishes in a single season, and would wind up in 6th place in the overall standings, 2 places and 15 points behind Kubica in the title race.

    Nick Heidfield BMW Sauber.jpg

    The following year would not be a good one for either Heidfeld or BWM Sauber in what would be the drivers final full time season in the sport, having found himself out of a drive at the end of the year despite only being a relatively young 33 years of age.

    Results would be few and far between for Heidfeld and Kubica in the BMW Sauber, however the driver did secure a season highlight of second in the rain shortened Malaysian Grand Prix, but with a lack of pace from the car coupled with persistent bad luck, neither Heidfeld or Kubica would look likely to repeat that performance for the remained of the season, leading to BMW pulling out of the sport and Heidfeld finding himself with a race seat for the coming year.

    2010 would be something of a frustrating transition year for ‘Quick Nick’, splitting his time between a reserve role with the newly reformed Mercedes team and testing duties for tyre manufacturer Pirelli. The step away from active competition would continue to eat away at the driver, and following the decision by Sauber (now back under Peter Sauber ownership) to drop lead driver Pedro de la Rosa for the final five rounds, Heidfeld would find himself parachuted back in to the squad, scoring six points courtesy of eight and ninth place finishes in Japan and Korea. Despite a strong showing during the year, Heidfeld would once again find himself without a drive for the coming season, as Sauber elected to opt for the youth and funding of Sergio Perez over the experienced German.

    Nick Heidfeld Lotus.jpg

    Ironically a reprieve would come for Heidfeld at Lotus Renault, looking for a new lead driver following the injury sustained by Robert Kubica at a national rally event during the Formula One off season. Heidfeld would find himself in a shootout position with Brazilian youngster Bruno Senna, winning out against the nephew of the great Ayrton Senna and starting the season behind the wheel of the black and gold Lotus car.

    2011 would be hit and miss for the German, with an early podium at the Malaysian Grand Prix proving to be the main highlight and the final occasion on which Heidfeld would step up onto the top three rostrum in Formula One, giving the driver the dubious honour of most podium finishes without scoring a race victory.

    Further points scoring races would follow, however a brace of eight place finishes would be the highest Heidfeld would finish before leaving the team early at the end of the Hungarian Grand Prix, whereupon Heidfeld would be replaced by Bruno Senna for the remainder of the year and effectively ending the drivers stay in Formula One racing.

    Having been linked with various teams in Formula One for 2012, Heidfeld would eventually confirm his retirement from the pinnacle of open wheel motorsport, as he looked to embark on an endurance racing career and an assault on the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours for over the coming years.

    Formula One Career Statistics
    Starts:
    183
    Wins: 0
    Poles:
    1
    Podiums: 13
    Fastest Laps: 2
    Teams: Prost, Sauber, Jordan, Williams, BMW Sauber, Lotus

    Nick Heidfeld Le Mans.jpg

    2012 would see Heidfeld sign for the Rebellion team in sportscar racing, taking up a part time season in the World Endurance Championship and Le Mans 24 Hours for the coming year, the first time Heidfeld would look to attempt to race in the biggest endurance event in the world since his aborted assault on the event with Mercedes in 1999, when the German manufacturer pulled out of the competition on safety grounds after the car displayed a tendency to flip over at high speeds...

    Heidfeld would have a strong start to his endurance racing career with Rebellion, securing an impressive class podium finish at Le Mans to add to his fourth place finish the previous round at Spa, giving the German driver enough points to secure 14th overall in the drivers’ standings despite having only entered three of the eight races from that season's championship.

    With a new contract with Rebellion in his pocket for the next two seasons, Heidfeld would make appearances in several series over the coming years, taking one off drives in Australian V8 Supercars, American Le Mans Series and the Porsche Supercup, as the driver looked to make the most of his new found freedom away from the constraints of a traditional Formula One drivers contract.

    Further attempts to win Le Mans would follow in 2013, ‘14, ‘15 and ‘16 with limited success, a best result of fourth place in 2014 being the remaining highlights as bad luck and uncompetitive machinery continued to hinder the driver in his quest for the ultimate endurance race victory.

    Heidfeld would continue his part season commitments in WEC with Rebellion for the next four seasons, often proving his outright pace but never quite managing to bring home the big results in his privateer run prototype machine. Despite the commitment to run for Rebellion in both Le Mans and WEC, it would be the new for 2014 FIA Formula E championship where Heidfeld would return to forefront of the public consciousness, having secured himself a full time drive in the all-electric open wheel racing series with top team Venturi.

    Nick Heidfeld Formula E.jpg

    One of the pre-season favourites for a championship assault, 2014-15 wouldn't quite work out as expected for Heidfeld, with a series of accidents and lack of form preventing the German driver from making his mark in the series as expected at the beginning of the year. In fact, the biggest impact Heidfeld would make during that debut year would be his incredible accident with Nico Prost when fighting for victory on the final lap of the first ever race, resulting in a massive accident for the German driver who fortunately avoided serious injury.



    The 2014-15 Formula E season would be one of disappointment and challenge for Heidfeld, as the German never quite managed to recapture the form showing during the opening race in Bejing, struggling home in a disappointing 12th position overall in the standings, with just a solitary podium finish marking the highlight of his first season in the championship.

    Despite the disappointing nature of the season in general, Heidfeld would sign for the Mahindra Formula E team for the 2015-16 racing season, partnering up with the driver whom cut short his Grand Prix career - Bruno Senna!

    The new year would again start strongly for Heidfeld, with an opening event podium finish matching his career best result in the series to date. Unfortunately the now traditional back luck would strike next time out, with Heidfeld suffering an injury to his hand that forced the driver to miss the next race in Punta del Este whilst he recovered from his injuries.

    Heidfeld would bounce back in style with a string of top 10 finishes, however the race winning form alluded to at the beginning of the year would fail to materialise again that year, leaving him a disappointed 10th in the overall series standings, one place and a single point above his new Brazilian team mate.

    Remaining with Mahindra for this season, Heidfeld has finally begun to show the form everyone expected of the German as both team and driver finally look to have gelled, putting together a string of competitive performances to secure five third place finishes from the ten races held so far. Heidfeld finds himself sitting in sixth position in the standings heading into the final round at Montreal, six points behind Nico Prost in fifth and a full 26 points adrift of team mate and 2015 European Formula Three champion Felix Rosenqvist in third.

    At 40 years of age, Heidfeld still has a few good years left under his belt and will probably remain one of the most complete and competitive drivers never to have won a Formula One Grand Prix.

    Career Highlights

    1994 German Formula Ford 1600 - 1st
    1995 German Formula Ford 1800 - 1st
    1995 Formel Ford Zetec Meisterschaft - 1st
    1996 German Formula Three - 3rd
    1996 Masters of Formula Three - 3rd
    1997 German Formula Three - 1st
    1997 Monaco Grand Prix - 1st
    1998 International Formula 3000 - 2nd
    1999 International Formula 3000 - 1st
    2012 LM24 - 4th (LMP2)
    2013 WEC - 8th (LMP2)
    2013 American Le Mans Series - 2nd
    2014 LM24 - 4th (LMP2)

    We hope you are enjoying our 'Where Are They Now' series of articles. In case you missed it, check out the previous features on the links below:
    How do you rate Nick Heidfeld's professional career? Is 'Quick Nick' one of the best drivers to never have won a Formula One Grand Prix?
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2017
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  2. chargingcar

    chargingcar
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    Awesome story man :thumbsup:
     
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  3. samcar304

    samcar304
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    Nick Heidfeld was one of my favourite racing drivers in F1. And I have kept checking up on his progress since he sadly departed...

    An understated person who went about his business with speed and dependability. A safe pair hands to entrust with your race car. It still pains me deeply Nick never won a race. But he was one of the best team players the sport has had. He and Robert in BMW Sauber were a force back in 07-09 They got 2nd in the Constructors in 07... But it was more like 3rd due to McLarens DQ. Nick was and still is a great role model for young drivers. Back in 07 He was one of my favourite drivers in the sport and I tend to go about my Sim racing in the same way. Collect points, Improve my race pace gradually, take no unnecessary risks and be polite and a gentleman on and off the track.

    Thank you very much for this Article! Great read! Look forward to the next one :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2017
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  4. Andrew

    Andrew
    I'm not lazy, I'm just very relaxed. Staff Premium

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    @Paul Jeffrey
    You Sir are a genius . What a great article. Wow, just wow. :thumbsup::inlove::thumbsup:
     
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  5. Eckhart von Glan

    Eckhart von Glan

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    great chap, Heidfeld, fine read, thx Paul.
     
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  6. Jolero02

    Jolero02

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    I never see why he got kicked out mid-season in 2011- his form wasn't that bad compared to his teammate, only really the underperforming car in 2011 slowed him and in the last 2 races where he has to "prove himself" according to the team, he got crashed out by Sebastian Buemi in Germany and had a mechanical problem with the car in Hungary and yet still got replaced by a very mediocre Bruno Senna
     
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  7. protonv5

    protonv5

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    So, you still haven't told us where Nick is right now. I mean, as in right now. I thought that's what you were going to tell us. That's the title of the article. So, if you could tell me please I would like to stop by and maybe have coffee with him or something. You can come too.
     
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  8. Eric Rowland

    Eric Rowland
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    I remember the Pau F3000 race where Heidfeld finished second.....JP Montoya having lapped everyone winning the race!
     
  9. protonv5

    protonv5

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    After thinking further on this article, I think it would be nice to have a sort of "Where's Waldo" picture included with each of these. upload_2017-7-26_11-36-39.png
     
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  10. samcar304

    samcar304
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    Well Nick would be in the Bengal tiger enclosure keeping true to his Mahindra contract :p
     
  11. BenCollins

    BenCollins
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    Track, car and skin available for Assetto Corsa :thumbsup:
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2017
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  12. protonv5

    protonv5

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    Example #2

    upload_2017-7-26_11-47-21.png
     
  13. Omer Said

    Omer Said
    Weresloth Staff

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    It might come as a stupid thought to some, but in my opinion, Nick Heidfeld lacked the selfishness (or egoism) which the top drivers have. He was more like a committed-to-team, modest and consistent kind of driver like Barrichello and Webber. Maybe that is what prevented him from shining.

    Great Read! This series of articles are fantastic! Can't wait for the next ones. :geek:
     
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  14. samcar304

    samcar304
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    Something I thought Nico Rosberg was too. As a fan of Nico's too it was great to see his evolution as a driver. Usually a racing driver matures with age and becomes wiser. Rosberg was already a mature and level headed driver by 2012. So when it came to the title fight with Lewis the dynamic had to change. He had to take his only chance to become world champion and it was great to see how much as a driver he changed to achieve his life goal. You can tell it meant something because of how hard the effort he put in. And whilst some people say he is a "coward" for not defending his title. He's reached the summit of his own Everest... Why not relax and take in the view rather than comeback down...
     
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  15. Paul Jeffrey

    Paul Jeffrey
    RaceDepartment Editor-in-Chief Staff Premium

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    Very, very well said.

    Actually I think that could be the best way anyone that I've read has put into perspective Rosberg's retirement. Bravo man!
     
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  16. Paul Jeffrey

    Paul Jeffrey
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    Oh and as a side note, thank you very much to those of you who have said nice things about the article / series in these comments. Really does mean a lot to me and I'm delighted people are interested in the series.

    Takes bloody ages to write up so glad to hear people actually want to read it :D

    Got plenty more coming in the pipeline, however not yet set release dates on anything as it depends on how busy I am with general news, motivation to write them etc etc. Will probably aim for a loose target of a couple per month. Probably... ;)
     
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  17. Leprekaun

    Leprekaun
    Speed is good, consistency is better Premium

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    Thanks for the article Paul. I'm glad to see that Heidfeld is being shown some appreciation and admiration. He's one of the best F1 drivers of recent times and he deservedly should've been promoted to McLaren in 2002 and who knows? He may have been world champion in 2003 when Raikkonen had challenged for it himself.

    You can tell a lot about a driver by the performance of the car before and after they leave and Heidfeld is a prime example of an excellent development driver who raised Sauber and BMW. The only thing I never really liked about him is his lack of personality out of the car, quite a boring guy but in F1, thats commonplace anyway :D
     
  18. paracletus

    paracletus

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    Good stuff. Yes always was quick, unfortunately never won a gp but certainly should have.
    Was there for the goodwood sprint, great to see the video again.
    Very long career at top level motorsport, and long may it continue.
     
  19. Matheus Machado

    Matheus Machado
    Talking Door Racing Premium

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    Technically he did win le mans. It isn't fair to compare the hybrid P1s with the non hybrids.
     
  20. gamer19

    gamer19

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    Tbh, I have never understand why Kimi has given chance before him.
    That year, in Sauber, he was matching or even quite often beat Kimi. Kimi goes in Ferrari and... the rest is history. Guess that's got a bit with their characters, Kimi is "saying whatever he likes", don't give a ** , playing it cool, slowly building his... "ice coffee man" -rolleyes- image, while Nick is just doing his job and he kept his mouth shut.
    Big no no in today's F1.
    Sometimes I wonder how would things turn up if Nick was, rightfully, chosen.
    He was just to nice for F1. Sadly, you have to be world class **ick to be world class driver. Apparently.
    I find that Nico Hulkenberg is in a way like QuickNick.
    I just hope Hulk won't go down this road too.
    But... seems like that just may happen. =/
     
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