27 May 2011
Q&A – Nick Heidfeld, Lotus Renault GP
Nick Heidfeld: I'm pretty pleased with my race performances this season and I think given the conditions and situations at various races we have put in our best efforts.
Lotus Renault GP driver Nick Heideld looks back on the first five races of F1 2011 ahead of this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix.
Five races into the 2011 campaign, how has the Lotus Renault GP experience been for you?
It's been a great experience so far. Obviously it was a very late call for me to come into the team; from the first day on I felt extremely welcome and I have really enjoyed working with the guys. We started trying to improve things together during winter testing and I'm still trying to work together with everyone to improve things further. As the season progresses, it becomes trickier to go into specific details (like you can when you are testing) because you are focusing just so much on the actual racing, but all in all it has been a positive experience so far.
How easy was it to come in at such short notice?
Lotus Renault GP made it very easy for me. It could have been very difficult, but actually in this instance it was not. Also for the team, I don't think it was an easy situation having to make a plan after what happened to Robert [Kubica] who is still very much a part of the team and did a great job last year, but we had to deal with the circumstances as they happened. But the team is a very open one and we all knew we had to deal with the situation and make the best we possibly could out of it. We are able to have lots of dialogue and suggest things, and LRGP has been the most open out of all the teams I have driven for in my career – that is something I like a lot and it is the reason I feel so at home here. From the very beginning there has been a lot of trust in each other, so it fits very well for me.
How does the challenge of joining Lotus Renault rank alongside the other ones you have had in your career?
Well, the challenges I've faced in F1 have all been very different. The unique thing about this season is that I was pretty sure I would not start the season as a racing driver because I was expecting to start as a test or reserve driver. Obviously the news came very late in the day, the year had already started and one test had already taken place, so then to get the opportunity to have a driver's seat – and in a good team – was a very special situation.
At the current stage of your career, do you approach things differently than you did say 5 or 6 years ago?
Yes, you develop and mature as a person and driver over the years but just in a normal and natural way. Of course, to have experience as a driver helps a lot when you go out on track.
There has been plenty of talk among fans and media that the R31 has not yet reached its potential – do you agree?
There's always room for improvement and, as a driver, I'm never completely satisfied unless I achieve the absolute maximum – I am always striving for more. I think we did reach our best at the beginning of the season when we got onto the podium two races running, but then on the other hand in a couple of races I have not started at particularly strong places on the grid. Some of the poorer grid positions have been down to bad luck but I don't feel you can just call it bad luck and leave it there, you could say you make your own luck. There is always room to plan and prepare things differently to avoid getting into those unlucky situations. Overall, I'm pretty pleased with my race performances this season and I think given the conditions and situations at various races we have put in our best efforts.
Last weekend you came from the back of the grid to finish 8th – do you like driving in those sort of conditions where you can race unnoticed?
The best thing as a driver is to fight at the front and win, but if you are starting last and finishing 8th it really is so much fun. Fighting your way through the field and having to be at your absolute limit right through the race is a unique situation and a lot more fun.
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