Nick Heidfeld has been the first Formula 1 driver to say the words that every fan of the sport has been waiting to hear for many a year – that overtaking should be 'a lot simpler' in 2009, and therefore a lot more regular too.
Though the aerodynamic regulations have changed considerably in the top flight over the close season – thereby producing what have been described as the ugliest F1 cars ever seen, with dramatically different front and rear wings in a bid to produce less downforce – in the initial stages of testing drivers admitted to being unconvinced that the new designs would achieve the joint target of both the FIA and FOTA (Formula One Teams' Association) in promoting more passing and generating more exciting on-track action.
With further track time under his belt in Bahrain last week, however, BMW-Sauber star Heidfeld – one of the sport's most experienced competitors – admits that he has now changed his mind, and suggests that drivers will
be able to race more closely with each other over the course of the upcoming campaign after all.
“This week, I finally got a chance to actually tail another car,” the German told his official website. “In Valencia, all the test runs were solo. I have the impression that the new aerodynamics are going to make it easier to close in on the driver ahead, just as we had hoped.
“This should certainly make overtaking a lot simpler. I'm hoping that this suspicion will be confirmed over the weeks to come.”
Though he sat out the first week of testing at Sakhir in the desert kingdom, Heidfeld described the three days he spent behind the wheel of the Munich and Hinwil-based concern's F1.09 last week as extremely productive, even if he found his efforts somewhat frustrated on each of the days by small technical issues. He added that he is particularly enjoying the extra challenge posed by the new regulations.
“We managed to clock up a total of almost 3,700km in Bahrain and, in the process, gather some vital data,” the 31-year-old revealed. “On the days when it was my turn to sit behind the wheel, I had perfect weather conditions and we were spared the sandstorms that had been blowing up the week before we arrived.
“We had some minor mechanical problems that cost us some time that would have been better spent out on the track, [but] as I already reported from Valencia, the car is responding to changes in the set-up just as we had hoped.
“We now have plenty of data on the effect of these adjustments. I'm also very happy with the balance of the car. On Thursday, I had the opportunity to put in some long runs – these were quite promising. We've also made good progress on KERS.
“Testing this time round has been so much more fun because there are so many new developments to keep up with and I'm learning a lot about the new elements. I'm having to adapt my driving style, which partly involves experimentation but also to some extent happens automatically.
“You're always finding new, hidden potential and that's what makes testing so enjoyable. Now I'm looking forward to the next tests at Jerez early in March.”