Speculation is mounting that Nick Heidfeld could be on his way out of Lotus Renault GP even if Robert Kubica does not return to the team, after Eric Boullier conceded that the experienced German 'has not provided the leadership we wanted', 'hasn't taken hold of the team' and has left him 'clearly disappointed'.
Heidfeld was chosen by Boullier as Robert Kubica's replacement following the Pole's terrifying high-speed rallying accident pre-season that left him with serious hand, arm and leg injuries from which he is still recovering, with his future in the sport uncertain.
Following a troubled start in Melbourne, Heidfeld then demonstrated precisely why he is called 'Quick Nick' with a superb performance to claim third place and a podium finish next time out at Sepang, but since then – barring a stirring charge from the back of the field in Barcelona, a strong early showing in Montreal and a dogged effort to claim four points at Silverstone – there have been few genuine flashes of inspiration.
Indeed, the 34-year-old has generally been shown the way by young team-mate Vitaly Petrov – particularly in the qualifying stakes, where he presently trails seven-three – but even more frustrating, Boullier contends, has been Heidfeld's seeming inability to drive the team forward and help to point it in the right direction again as Lotus Renault GP bids to extricate itself from the malaise
into which it has stumbled.
The erstwhile BMW-Sauber star will be replaced for FP1 ahead of this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix by the Enstone-based outfit's reserve driver Bruno Senna, and only a matter of days ago, Boullier revealed that he is 'working hard' to engineer a return to F1 for former Renault driver Romain Grosjean, dropped to make way for Petrov at the end of 2009. Could Heidfeld's days at the team be numbered?
“We rely more on Vitaly for performance, with Nick more suitable for the development of the car,” Boullier told sports.fr
, confessing that he has been 'clearly disappointed' with the latter thus far this season. “He has not provided the leadership we wanted. He hasn't taken hold of the team.”
On the subject of Grosjean, meanwhile, the Frenchman added that having been parachuted onto the grand prix grid too soon two years ago and pitched straight in at the deep end up against double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso in an uncompetitive car, the current GP2 Series leader is now infinitely more prepared to make the graduation to the highest level.
“He wasn't ready in 2009, and those seven races alongside Alonso did him a lot of harm,” Boullier is quoted as having said on James Allen's internet blog. “He's proved in GP2 this year that he's a very good driver, and he deserves a chance.”