Nick Heidfeld has revealed that he feels under no pressure to perform miracles for the Lotus Renault GP team, having been signed as replacement for the injured Robert Kubica.

The German was confirmed last week as the man the Enstone team wanted to stand-in for Kubica, who suffered serious injuries to his right arm and leg after crashing on the Ronde di Andora Rally in Italy, but insists that he has not been given an ultimatum for the season ahead, despite following Kubica's pace-setting run in Valencia with one of his own at Jerez.

"[Signing an experienced driver to lead the team] sounds like pressure coming from the team and that is definitely not so," Heidfeld told the official F1 website in an exclusive interview, "I think the team is quite happy with what I've done so far and positive feedback always lifts morale.

"I just want to get the best and the maximum out of a situation and everything else will fall into place, like probably being the number one in the team. Clearly this is the goal, but no concentration is going into it because that would tie up too much energy that could be used better somewhere else."

Heidfeld also denies that the team's new owners, Luxembourg-based venture capital company Genii, are expecting him to reproduce its testing form when racing starts in Australia late next month, even though a continuation of 2010's upturn in form would not go amiss.

"Not at all," he claimed, "My impression is that the team is not meant to be a vehicle to make money. The first aim is to be successful on the track - and only then, if making money is somewhere on the horizon, can you achieve that by attracting sponsors. The fact is that the team have proved that they are able to attract sponsors where many others failed. I think some of the other teams would wish to create such synergies for their companies as Genii is able to do. And from the talks that I had with them, I know that they are very ambitious to be successful"

Having been faced with the prospect of starting another F1 season on the outside looking in, Heidfeld is quick to admit that he could hardly have asked for a better opportunity to return short of one of the top three teams looking for a replacement. Having revealed that the DTM touring car series had begun to emerge as a possible refuge from F1, the 33-year old admits that he was in the right place at the right time to land the Lotus Renault ride - even if meant overcoming some tough personal emotions.

"The biggest sensation is that I did not expect to race this year," he confirmed, "The test season had already started, so I was in talks with Mercedes to get my old job from last year back, plus I had the option to sit in one of 'those' cars, which I still had no interest in. This chance came completely out of the blue.

"At the start of it, there was definitely the emotional need to get my head clear because there was the emotional strain of coping with Robert's accident while knowing that this could be a chance for me. It was not an easy situation, but I had to take the chance that came my way. Sure, I felt happy because it was so unexpected, [but] I did some intensive soul searching - probably more intensive than most others would have done.

"It still leaves a stale taste knowing that, if it goes badly for somebody else, this could be your chance. It is a hard-to-swallow situation, believe me, [but] now I would say that I have cleared the situation for myself. It was not my fault what happened to Robert and I truly wish he'll be back soon - that is one side. The other is that I had to grab the opportunity and feel happy to be driving again."

With Kubica's recuperation period unclear - and the Pole himself saying that he wants to be back in harness before the end of the year, Heidfeld knows that he may only have a limited time to show what he can do with possibly his most potent F1 ride to date.

"Whether it is for the whole season is not clear right now but, of course, I am ready and available for the whole season!" he smiled, "I can imagine that it is an extra motivation for [Kubica] to get back even sooner!"

Despite the two days in which Lotus Renault topped the times, Heidfeld is veteran enough to know that little of substance can be read into the performance and expects the R31 to be chasing the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari when racing finally gets underway in Australia next month. He is quick to play down suggestions, however, that the R31 has been designed around Kubica and that that could hinder his own progress during the season.

"It is still difficult to say where everybody is, but my guess is that there are still some teams ahead of us - especially Red Bull," he noted, "However, it is a good basis to build on. I think [the design] is pretty extreme in that we have a rather unusual exhaust and the objectives of the team seem to have been to take some risks in the design to close the gap to the frontrunners and not end up stuck in midfield. If you want to close the ranks to the leaders, you have to start thinking out of the box.

"How much it is true that the car was built around Robert I cannot say, as I simply don't know how easy such a task would be. I am sure he gave a huge amount of feedback last season as the clear number one in the team, so I assume his feedback was incorporated into this car. If this is a 'Robert-spec' car that is difficult for others to handle I could not say. I take it as it is.

"It is paramount for us to do mileage. That was a bit of a shortcoming due do some technical problems [in the last test in Barcelona]. On the first day, we had some issues with the KERS software which haunted us almost the whole day. Then we had a bit of an issue with the cooling system and I am hopeful that we'll get that sorted out pretty soon, but there are other teams who've been able to run many more kilometres than us and, with so few test days, that's always difficult to make up for."



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