Nick Heidfeld has revealed that he feels under no pressure to perform miracles for the Lotus Renault GP team, having been signed as replacement for the injured Robert Kubica.
The German was confirmed last week as the man the Enstone team wanted to stand-in for Kubica, who suffered serious injuries to his right arm and leg after crashing on the Ronde di Andora Rally in Italy, but insists that he has not been given an ultimatum for the season ahead, despite following Kubica's pace-setting run in Valencia with one of his own at Jerez.
"[Signing an experienced driver to lead the team] sounds like pressure coming from the team and that is definitely not so," Heidfeld told the official F1 website in an exclusive interview, "I think the team is quite happy with what I've done so far and positive feedback always lifts morale.
"I just want to get the best and the maximum out of a situation and everything else will fall into place, like probably being the number one in the team. Clearly this is the goal, but no concentration is going into it because that would tie up too much energy that could be used better somewhere else."
Heidfeld also denies that the team's new owners, Luxembourg-based venture capital company Genii, are expecting him to reproduce its testing form when racing starts in Australia late next month, even though a continuation of 2010's upturn in form would not go amiss.
"Not at all," he claimed, "My impression is that the team is not meant to be a vehicle to make money. The first aim is to be successful on the track - and only then, if making money is somewhere on the horizon, can you achieve that by attracting sponsors. The fact is that the team have proved that they are able to attract sponsors where many others failed. I think some of the other teams would wish to create such synergies for their companies as Genii is able to do. And from the talks that I had with them, I know that they are very ambitious to be successful"
Having been faced with the prospect of starting another F1 season on the outside looking in, Heidfeld is quick to admit that he could hardly have asked for a better opportunity to return short of one of the top three teams looking for a replacement. Having revealed that the DTM touring car series had begun to emerge as a possible refuge from F1, the 33-year old admits that he was in the right place at the right time to land the Lotus Renault ride - even if meant overcoming some tough personal emotions.
"The biggest sensation is that I did not expect to race this year," he confirmed, "The test season had already started, so I was in talks with Mercedes to get my old job from last year back, plus I had the option to sit in one of 'those' cars, which I still had no interest in. This chance came completely out of the blue.
"At the start of it, there was definitely the emotional need to get my head clear because there was the emotional strain of coping with Robert's accident while knowing that this could be a chance for me. It was not an easy situation, but I had to take the chance that came my way. Sure, I felt happy because it was so unexpected, [but] I did some intensive soul searching - probably more intensive than most others would have done.