Nick Heidfeld has revealed the driver he believes to have been his quickest team-mate over his nine years in Formula 1 – and it isn't who you might perhaps expect.
During his near-decade in the top flight, the experienced German has partnered – in chronological order – Jean Alesi at Prost Grand Prix, Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa and Heinz-Harald Frentzen at Sauber, Giorgio Pantano and Timo Glock at Jordan, Mark Webber at Williams and Jacques Villeneuve and, currently, Robert Kubica at BMW-Sauber.
Between them, the aforementioned drivers have notched up no fewer than 44 grand prix victories and two world championship crowns, yet Heidfeld is still in search of his maiden triumph after 150 starts in the top flight, despite having eleven times finished up on the podium.
It is indeed illustrious company the man from Mönchengladbach has kept since he made his F1 debut back in 2000, and if he has successfully got the better of every driver on the above list on more than the odd occasion, 'Quick Nick' – as he is dubbed by his fans – nonetheless rates one of them ahead of all others in terms of outright pace.
“I'm pretty sure that Mark Webber has been the quickest team-mate I've had so far in terms of qualifying – he was very strong there,” he told his website, after being beaten nine-five by the Australian during their year spent together at Williams back in 2005 – even though at the time of his premature end to the campaign following a cycling accident, Heidfeld led the way in terms of points scored with 28 to 24.
“In terms of racecraft, I would say it was Kimi Raikkonen. Although I did beat him in our season together, I was surprised that right from his first race, without a lot of testing behind him, he was already quite strong.”
One area in which Heidfeld was certainly strong in 2008 was overtaking, with most memorably a series of superb double passes in the rain-lashed British Grand Prix at Silverstone en route
to second place at the chequered flag helping to cement his status as the driver who made the most progress in grands prix over the course of the campaign. Moreover, with the sport's sweeping new aerodynamic regulations for 2009, the 31-year-old is clearly hoping for even more of the same during the coming months.
“It was great fun last year with all the overtaking moves I made,” he affirmed. “The finishing positions weren't always so nice, but the overtaking was a lot of fun.
“I do hope the aerodynamic changes for 2009 will help [in that respect]. I've seen in testing that it's easier to follow other cars because of the change in aerodynamics, and also because of the fact that we can now change the front wing position.”