Nick Heidfeld has stated that his aims for the 2009 Formula 1 campaign are to remain 'faster' than BMW-Sauber team-mate Robert Kubica – and challenge for the world championship.
The experienced German largely suffered by comparison with his Polish team-mate during the 2008 season, being out-qualified 13-5 and on five occasions failing to make the top ten on the grid at all, despite being behind the wheel of what was recognised for the majority of the year as having been the third-quickest car.
His qualifying woes all-too often put the 31-year-old on the back foot come race day, and would see him pipped to fifth spot in the final drivers' standings by Renault's Fernando Alonso by a single point in the last grand prix in Brazil.
That said, his Saturday form improved again in the final races, and indeed Heidfeld's was the only F1.08 to make it through to Q3 in both Shanghai and Interlagos. That has given the man from Mönchengladbach hope that 2009 will finally provide him with the opportunity to break his grand prix duck – after no fewer than 150 races and eleven podium finishes in the top flight over the course of his nine-year grand prix career – and he echoed BMW Motorsport Director Dr Mario Theissen's conviction that the Munich and Hinwil-based outfit can seriously challenge for the title next year.
“It is not unrealistic,” he told sport1.de
, “because so far the team has achieved all its goals in every season.”
BMW wound up 37 points adrift of eventual champions Ferrari and 16 shy of runners-up McLaren-Mercedes in 2008 after slipping off the pace in the closing stages – indeed neither driver troubled the scorers in São Paulo, incredibly for the first time since the final outing of 2006 two years earlier – and Heidfeld finished 15 points behind fourth-placed Kubica in the drivers' chase, even if he was generally the quicker of the two again at season's end.
Having never shared the easiest of relationships with his fiercely-competitive team-mate, the F1 veteran confessed that: “I hope in 2009 I am still faster than Robert.”