BMW-Sauber's patience with Nick Heidfeld appears to be running out, after the German admitted that 'the pace wasn't there' during a European Grand Prix in Valencia today that he described as 'a disaster' and 'one of the worst races ever'.
Having seemingly got to the bottom of his early-season tyre-warming issues mid-campaign, Heidfeld has gone into a slump again in the last two races, failing even to progress beyond the initial qualifying phase in Hungary three weeks ago, and enduring a torrid time of things around the all-new Juan Carlos I Marina circuit this weekend.
Despite having made it through into Q3 on this occasion, the experienced 31-year-old nevertheless languished more than a second adrift of team-mate Robert Kubica – even allowing for the fact that he was running heavier than the Pole – and following an insipid race day performance, his Bavarian employers seemed to offer him little in the way of either support or excuses.
“This was one of the worst races ever for me,” the man from Mönchengladbach rued afterwards. “To finish ninth in a car which is obviously good enough for third is a disaster.
“After qualifying I was pretty confident because we realised we could go well, but in the race I had big problems with the harder tyres during the first two stints, and it was only better at the end with the softer compound. I lost one position after the start, and later in the race I couldn't gain any. The pace wasn't there.”
“Starting from eighth was not an ideal situation for Nick,” reflected BMW Motorsport Director Dr Mario Theissen. “We were hoping he would improve one or two places at the start, but in the heat of the moment he unfortunately lost a position, and then the race was basically over for him.”
“Nick started from eighth, hence we expected him to score championship points,” added the Munich and Hinwil-based concern's technical director Willy Rampf. “However, his pace was simply too slow. We expected to score more points today.”
The squad at least had the satisfaction of taking away six points from the weekend courtesy of Kubica's strong run to third place – another example of the Kraków-born star out-performing the equipment at his disposal and punching considerably above his weight in 2008 to keep him in the championship fight. It was not a race without dramas, however, as he recounted…
“I started pretty well,” the 23-year-old reflected, “but in corner one I went over the kerb and Lewis [Hamilton] was closing. In the second corner I was going to overtake Lewis, but I saw Felipe [Massa] braking quite early. It would have been too much of a risk, as I could have ended up over-shooting the braking point and crashing into him.