Nick Heidfeld was barely able to conceal his frustration at the end of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne at the weekend, having seen a potentially strong result stolen from his grasp mere moments into the curtain-raising outing on the 2009 Formula 1 calendar.
Though he had struggled in qualifying, the experienced German made a speedy getaway from ninth spot on the starting grid when the lights went out and was confident of an equally speedy race performance – for the first few hundred yards, at least.
“The outcome to the race is extremely disappointing for me,” the 31-year-old rued. “I had such a good start and was able to make up positions straightaway. My strategy was promising, too. Then in the braking zone for the first corner I felt safe because when I looked there was no car next to me. I was in the middle of the track, but suddenly I got a big bang.
“I had to pit for new tyres and a front wing, but the damage to the car was a lot more than that and driving with it was hopeless. I think at least KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) helped me to defend my position with such a slow car, but in the end it didn't matter much because who cares if you finish eleventh or 13th.”
Indeed, it was a tough day all-round for BMW-Sauber, with team-mate Robert Kubica seeing his podium hopes shatter just three laps from the chequered flag when the Pole collided with Red Bull Racing star Sebastian Vettel as the pair duelled over second place – leaving both teams to walk away from Albert Park with substantial damage...and empty-handed.
“As has quite often happened in the past, we had another race in Melbourne with a lot of drama,” commented BMW Motorsport Director Dr Mario Theissen. “Nick's hopes had already gone in the first corner. After a collision which wasn't his fault, he was not only a long way behind but also his aerodynamics were ruined, which made it impossible for him to catch up.”
“This was a turbulent start to the season,” agreed the Munich and Hinwil-based concern's head of engineering Willy Rampf, “particularly for our team. Nick lost his chances in the race immediately after the start, following a crash which was not his fault.”