Putting a brave face on the crushing disappointment of unexpectedly falling at the first hurdle in qualifying for this weekend's Australian Grand Prix on his debut for Lotus Renault GP, Nick Heidfeld has quipped that from 18th place, at least he will 'find out how well the rear wing works' in the race.
Having shown well in testing after being chosen to step into the breach left by Robert Kubica's rallying accident in February – and with the innovative and aggressive new R31 looking to be a decidedly potent piece of kit indeed – there were high expectations of 'Quick Nick' in Melbourne. Unfortunately, on Saturday afternoon around Albert Park, those expectations swiftly fell flat.
“I'm disappointed to be starting the season from so far back,” reflected the experienced German after becoming the sole 'fall guy' from the established teams in Q1. “It wasn't an easy session. I had a problem with the KERS which meant I had to change some settings, and that cost me one of my timed laps.
“Then, there was so much traffic and I tried to find some free space, but it didn't work out for me and I didn't get a free lap. It's bad luck, very unfortunate and not a good way to start the season, but I must try to put that behind me now.
“As we have seen with Vitaly [Petrov – team-mate], the car seems to have good pace and the race is wide open, so hopefully I can move forward and fight for points. I'm happy that it's a long race, because otherwise, from 18th there would be not much to do! I'll definitely find out tomorrow how well the rear wing works…”
Indeed, having been tipped to play a second fiddle role again this year, Petrov rather showed Heidfeld up Down Under, winding up an excellent sixth on the grid and lapping a superb third-fastest in Q1, a staggering 1.7 seconds quicker than his new team-mate. Lotus Renault GP technical director James Allison, however, is swift to defend the performance of the team's new recruit.
“It's sad for Nick that a troubled session in Q1 saw him eliminated early on,” the Englishman acknowledged. “P18 is certainly not a reflection of the pace he has shown throughout the weekend.”