Nick Heidfeld is confident that Lotus Renault GP is now back on the right track in terms of working to extract the maximum performance out of its R31 – but he warns that 'these things don't magically happen overnight' and that the team will need to continue to 'take it one race at a time'.
Heidfeld was looking good for a strong points finish in the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal just over a week ago, rising to the challenge laid down to him by the team in out-qualifying team-mate Vitaly Petrov in ninth on the grid and going on to duel with Kamui Kobayashi over fourth place in the race until he found himself unexpectedly caught out by his rival's slow exit speed out of the first corner on lap 56 of 70, making contact with the rear of the Sauber that cost him his front wing and – just seconds later – his entire race.
“I think it was bad luck,” the experienced German phlegmatically mused. “I have put it behind me now, but it is difficult to know what could have been done differently. When the incident happened, I was behind Kamui and he suddenly slowed down instead of accelerating, which would be the normal action at this part of the track.
“Of course then I couldn't avoid him and went into the back of his car, my front wing came off and unfortunately my race reached its end. These things happen from time-to-time; it was just unlucky that it took place when we were in such a strong position fighting for high-end points.
“Overall, it was definitely a positive weekend for us, though, especially if you look at the preceding race in Monaco. It was a good step forward to have both cars qualifying in the top ten, and then to have Vitaly scoring ten points, too – and before I went out [of the race], I was driving well. In addition, the pit wall made the right decisions over the weekend to put us in a strong fighting position.
“It was important for the team to come away from Canada understanding some of the problems we encountered in Monaco, and I think we have clear proof that we did exactly that. We now know which direction we need to take, and it is obvious the team started doing that during the two-week spell between Monaco and Montreal. These things don't magically happen overnight, but we have done a good job in analysing where we need to improve.”
Indeed, having come out-of-the-blocks in flying form at the beginning of the campaign with back-to-back podiums for Petrov and Heidfeld respectively in Australia and Malaysia, Lotus Renault GP has since struggled to maintain that pace and momentum, slipping behind closest rival Mercedes Grand Prix on outright performance terms and increasingly coming under threat for fourth spot in the constructors' standings, too.
Heidfeld is convinced that with the issues now successfully diagnosed, the Enstone-based outfit can rediscover its hitherto upward trend – and he hopes to be able to rebound from his Canadian disappointment as rapidly as this weekend's European Grand Prix in Valencia.
“It's another street circuit but different to both Monaco, which is a proper street circuit, and Canada, which is more of a high-speed street circuit,” the 34-year-old reflected. “This is a different type of track, faster than Monaco, slower than Canada. I think it will also require the car to be set up with a bit more downforce than we needed in Montreal. It's a reasonably recent race to join the F1 calendar, but I've been there before so we will see how we get on.