Lotus Renault GP majority owner Gérard Lopez has revealed that he was 'surprised' Nick Heidfeld chose to turn up in the paddock at Spa-Francorchamps last weekend and that the German has vowed to fight the team's decision to drop him from its race line-up – describing it as 'an emotional reaction'.
Following a number of sniping remarks in the media about Heidfeld's performance as stand-in team leader at the Enstone-based outfit this year – from both Lopez and team principal Eric Boullier – speculation was rife that the 34-year-old's seat was far from safe, and on the eve of the Belgian Grand Prix, he was duly dropped in favour of reserve driver Bruno Senna, a man with just 18 prior F1 starts underneath his belt.
However, adamant that his contract is a binding one, Heidfeld travelled to Spa and has begun legal proceedings in a bid to reclaim the cockpit, with a hearing set to take place in London's High Court on 19 September – meaning that for the time being, Lotus Renault GP is able to confirm Senna only for the forthcoming Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Lopez admits the situation is a frustrating one.
“I was surprised,” he told Tageblatt Luxembourg
. “I would say it is an emotional reaction. His performance was not right, so we need to test other drivers. Nick has always been a good colleague, but we told him that we had not [had] from him what we had expected. He was always treated with respect and that will continue, because he is still a member of the team.”
Heidfeld – who outscored team-mate Vitaly Petrov over the opening eleven races of the current campaign – remains convinced, however, that he has a solid case and will soon return to the grand prix grid.
“I cannot be very specific as something is pending,” the 13-time podium-finisher told the BBC
over the weekend. “It's disappointing not to be here as a race driver, but that is the situation at the moment and I have to live with that. If we were not confident that we have a case here, we wouldn't follow it up and yes, I believe this is the situation. I have a good feeling inside the team. People like me. I've worked with the team for over a year and always enjoyed working with them.”