Nick Heidfeld has expressed his confidence of being part of the Formula 1 World Championship fight with BMW-Sauber in 2009 – even if he admits that technical input, rather than the skill of the man behind the wheel, has taken on greater significance than ever in the sport's brave new dawn.
The experienced German is heading into his tenth season in the top flight this year, and though he has eleven times stood up on the podium and registered no fewer than 200 career points from 150 starts, he has yet to break his grand prix duck.
With BMW having pulled off every one of its objectives so far, however – regular points in 2006, podiums in 2007 and its breakthrough triumph in 2008 – the pressure is on. Heidfeld knows that now, more than ever before, it is time to deliver.
“My goal is to get everything possible out of the car and the situation on each lap and each race weekend,” the 31-year-old underlined. “What is actually possible is determined to a large degree by our technical performance. In the past few years we have always met our intermediate targets, and I hope we manage to do that again in 2009.
“The aim of the team is to be involved in the title battle in 2009. In order to do that you have to have a car underneath you that is capable of winning. That's what I'm hoping for, of course, and that's what we are working to achieve.”
Having spent much of the winter working intensively on his fitness in the light of the new in-season ban on testing in F1, the man from Mönchengladbach is clearly champing at the bit to get going again in the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne in just under three weeks' time.
What's more, he is positive that the FIA and FOTA's cost-cutting regulations are decidedly the right way to be going – and even, at a pinch, the reduced salaries he and his 19 fellow drivers are potentially facing.
“I think it's very important,” he stressed of the sport's new expenditure-slashing drive, “and some of the ideas are already bearing fruit. Each driver now only has eight engines for the whole season, for example, and we won't be doing any more testing from the middle of March.
“This is the first time that the teams involved in the world championship have agreed on such major changes – that is something that should be warmly welcomed in the current economic climate.
“Nobody is happy about salary cuts. The driver is clearly an important factor in the team, but BMW draws up an objective cost-benefit analysis for every area of the team's budget and has never paid 'fantasy' salaries. As in the past, it's just about reaching an agreement.”