This year is Nick Heidfeld's final chance to really make his mark in Formula 1 and stake his claim to an extended future at the very front of the sport - that is the view of former grand prix ace-turned-expert commentator Hans-Joachim Stuck.

The experienced German - a man with more than 150 grand prix starts now under his belt - struggled to match highly-rated young BMW-Sauber team-mate Robert Kubica for the majority of 2008, as he failed to adequately adapt his driving style to Bridgestone's new Potenza tyres to wring a decent qualifying lap out of them.

That all-too often left the man from M?nchengladbach down the grid and consequently at an instant disadvantage come race day, and though he only ultimately trailed Kubica by two positions and 15 points in the drivers' standings come the end of last season, the general feeling within the F1 paddock is that Heidfeld was lucky to hang onto his drive at the Munich and Hinwil-based outfit for a fourth consecutive campaign in the top flight.

However, despite his more encouraging end to 2008, the 31-year-old again languished in qualifying for the first race of 2009, the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne last weekend. Prior to the penalties meted out to Toyota duo Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli, he had placed only eleventh - a full seven spots behind Kubica - and after sustaining damage to his F1.09 in the first corner m?l?e, he went on to take the chequered flag a lowly tenth on the Sunday.

"If he is not really up there with Kubica this year, then it would surprise me a lot if he gets another contract," compatriot Stuck - a man who had close links with BMW throughout his career - told, hinting that should 'Quick Nick's' performances not start living up to his moniker a little more, then the eleven-time podium-finisher 'could lose his seat'.