Badger’s Matt Briggstone has been taking a look at what made Nick Heidfeld’s signing such a no-brainer for the Renault team.
He may look like a low budget Benny Andersson impersonator but Nick Heidfeld isn’t too bad behind the wheel of a racing car, although you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise given the reaction when it was announced that he would be the man to stand in for Robert Kubica. A few fans seemed uninspired by Renault’s choice but “Nice Nick” is more than just a safe pair of hands.
Take a glance at his decade in Formula One and it is easy to see why his selection didn’t really set the pulse racing – he holds the records for most career championship points without a win, the most podiums without a win and the most second place finishes without a win. Those statistics won’t be welcome on any drivers’ CV but they don’t tell the whole story.
With the exception of a season or two at BMW Sauber he was rarely in a car capable of competing at the sharp end of the grid but when in a battle with drivers in equivalent machinery he was a force to be reckoned with. Few team mates have ever got the better of Nick Heidfeld.
In his second season he joined Sauber and was paired up alongside the then debutant Kimi Raikkonen. Nick picked up 12 points to Kimi’s 9. The next season he was again joined by a young rookie, this time Felipe Massa. Once again he outperformed his team mate. In 2005 he moved to Williams and dominated Mark Webber until a testing accident ended his season prematurely. He did similar in 2006 and 2007, beating Jacques Villeneuve and Robert Kubica over the course of a year. The list of drivers he has made his number two reads like a who’s who of modern day F1’s great and good.
With that in mind it’s much more understandable why Renault took a punt on the man from Monchengladbach, especially when you consider how limited their options are. No amount of money or wishful thinking is going to see Kimi jack in the World Rally Championship to return to Formula One at such short notice and Tonio Liuzzi’s struggles at Force India over the past few years aren’t the most convincing advert that he has the talent necessary to lead the team, regardless of how highly he is rated by the man he would be replacing.
Of course the romantics amongst us would’ve liked to see that famous yellow helmet in a JPS liveried motor but Bruno Senna lacks the experience and the speed to make him a viable replacement for Kubica. It is hard to see how he’d fit into the driving line up anyway considering Vitaly Petrov has the monopoly on silly crashes within the team. The more you look at it the clearer it becomes that Heidfeld isn’t just the best option, but he’s the only option.
It may be a bit much to expect Nick to lead a Renault title charge but if anyone is capable of confounding expectations it’s him. In recent seasons he has made it his trademark to drag his car over the line come hell or high water, stringing together a run of 41 consecutive race finishes between 2007 and 2009 but it wasn’t always that way. When he first stepped into an F1 car he could barely reach the chequered flag. Maybe, just maybe, at the not-so tender age of 33 he’ll suddenly find himself at the front of the field? Then this selection will look more inspired than insipid.