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GP Week : Issue 16
5 Minutes with ... Nick Heidfeld GP WEEK: You joined forces with BMW at Williams back in ’05. How gutted were you not to take BMW’s first F1 victory? NICK HEIDFELD: Not because of that, but just because it was the best chance I ever had since I was in Formula 1. It was difficult, and I think it was not difficult to see that I was not the happiest person on earth after that Grand Prix in Canada. Even if it’s great for Robert and the team, and not bad for me either to be second, you want to win. It’s a good indicator of the pace the team has got though… Yes and no. We have shown that we can win races but I think only if something happens. If Kimi and Hamilton wouldn’t have crashed it would have been a lot more difficult to score a 1-2, and they are simply a little bit quicker than us. Nevertheless, we have the most reliable car and we are leading the most laps of all the drivers. We have good strategy, clearly have the best pitstops, so it’s not by luck that we are there. I think to stay in first position and win the championship we need a bit more speed. And yet you’ve been able to step it up and keep competitive all season. Has that surprised you? It hasn’t surprised me to stay competitive, but I don’t see that we are consistently closing the gap. It was a bit up and down, and I think it hasn’t changed a lot since the beginning of the year. Have you been surprised by Robert’s pace this season? Obviously last year I outqualified him 12- 4, so yes I didn’t expect him to beat me in the last seven races. It shows that I have a problem in qualifying, especially as in the races my pace is usually good. I have problems in qualifying, and I’m looking into that with the team and my engineers. After the race in Canada Robert insinuated that he hoped the team would focus on him. Has there been any thought of that or are you both equal? No, there is no number one in the team. So your first win, is it around the corner or do you think it will take a problem for McLaren and Ferrari? Right now yes we need a bit of luck. But Robert has shown that it is possible. We’re working hard to close the gap, but it’s difficult to do so. In the last years we’ve made the biggest steps in the winter but we’re giving it everything. It’s your ninth season in F1. How much have you changed in that time? I think it’s a question which is very difficult to answer. I have learned a lot. It’s extremely competitive and compared to other people my age in normal businesses by the nature of the sport you are at the top a lot earlier and so you are used to a lot more pressure. I’m more used to the size of Formula 1, but I don’t think I’ve changed a lot in the important things that define a human being. You’ve just got a bit more facial hair. [Laughs] Exactly! Looking back on your F3000 days, you’re the only one of your generation still in F1. What’s the secret to your longevity? Not so long ago I saw some F3000 results and it was interesting to see the names, and there’s probably not so many in Formula 1 but they’re going strong in other series. I would hope it’s the case that I’m still here because I’m a good driver. How fondly do you remember the F3000 days and your rivalry with guys like Juan Pablo Montoya and Gonzalo Rodriguez? It was a great time. We were very successful. We came into 3000 with a new team, and although we were backed by McLaren it was not so easy to win races straight away. It was a great time for me, learning a lot about the sport and having Formula 1 tests at the same time. I had one of the nicest rivalries I’ve ever had with Montoya. Back then it was quite a hard rivalry but it was very enjoyable. It was better in the first year where I didn’t win the championship against Montoya than the second year when I won it quite easily. The first year it was more fun, there was more tension. It was great. Did you ever wonder what might have happened if you’d gone to McLaren in F1? Of course I have thought about it, but not in depth. I would have liked to have gone there when they chose Kimi over me, but straight away I focussed on looking forward and doing the best I could do to make it to a top team in Formula 1… which I have! And what of the future? Will you still be driving for BMW next season? It’s a policy within BMW that you don’t speak about contracts so I can’t tell you more than that. But I’m happy within BMW. I feel good and I have the support from the team. I’m especially happy if I look at the progress we’ve made over the last three years. We have achieved each target we set ourselves, which were quite high. We had a five year programme in which you’re champion in year five. Normally in most teams everything goes terribly wrong, but we are exactly on track. It’s great to be part of that. Now in his ninth season of F1, BMW’s Nick Heidfeld is one of the elder statesmen of F1, but is coming under pressure from a rapid young team-mate. He sat down for a chat with WILL BUXTON in Magny-Cours. 18