Being released by Sauber - the team with which he has become somewhat synonymous over the past decade - to make way for Sergio P?rez at the end of last season had looked to signal the end for Nick Heidfeld and F1. As circumstances have transpired, it could just mark the beginning of the most successful period of his grand prix career.

Robert Kubica's horrific high-speed accident on the Ronde di Andora Rally in northern Italy last month suddenly left Lotus Renault GP without its lead driver - and it did not take long for the team to turn in Heidfeld's direction with a view to standing in for his former team-mate at Enstone.

If his testing debut with the potent R31 at Jerez was a job interview of sorts, then it was one that the experienced German passed with flying colours, belying his complete lack of familiarity with his new toy to conclude proceedings firmly ensconced at the top of the timing screens - ahead of four of the F1 2011 field's five world champions, no less.

The 33-year-old's signature on the contract was subsequently a formality, and now 'Quick Nick' - the man with the unenviable record of the most second places in F1 without a race victory - has arguably the best chance he has ever had to finally break his grand prix duck, and he has already acknowledged that 'you don't always need to have the quickest car to win' [see separate story - click here].

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