by Russell Atkins

A superlative effort saw BMW-Sauber ace Nick Heidfeld steal third position on the grid in the very last moments of qualifying for today's Canadian Grand Prix, and now he wants to achieve a similar result in the race.

The German has enjoyed a stellar start to the 2007 season, currently lying fifth in the drivers' standings with three fourth place finishes to his name from the opening five outings. What's more, his third spot on the starting grid this weekend - just a tenth shy of reigning double Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso - came in the face of adversity following a hydraulic failure in the morning practice session and the loss of his best time in Q2 for cutting the chicane, a penalty that left him in serious danger of lining up as low as 16th and left him fired-up to produce his scintillating lap in Q3.

"I'm extremely satisfied," the 30-year-old told reporters with a mixture of happiness and relief, "mainly because the morning was a disaster. We only managed to do one flying lap before qualifying, and that obviously made me worried about how the session would go.

"The conditions were completely different to Friday too. The wind had turned 180 degrees, and especially here with such long straights and high speeds it's really important to hit the braking points right. On Friday we had top speeds of 305km/h, and on Saturday 320km/h; that was one of the reasons I went straight on across turn one at the start of Q1. I needed some time to get used to the conditions.

"I didn't know the time had been taken away in Q2. Nobody told me, but I saw on my handset there was a chance they would take it away from me. When I did cut the last chicane I purposely slowed down a lot afterwards. I backed off big-time so they shouldn't have taken it away. Following that I had just one shot left, but luckily it worked out. If you look at Q2 I was third-fastest there too - that shows how quick we are."

The result also marks the first time this year a BMW has outqualified both Ferraris, and though he refuses to underestimate the challenge from the two scarlet machines, Heidfeld is nevertheless optimistic Montreal could just see the Munich-based squad secure its maiden rostrum finish of the campaign to-date.

"I think it's a bit early yet to say the situation [of BMW being ahead of Ferrari] is going to stay that way," he stressed, "though of course I hope it will! If you look at McLaren they seem to have a good advantage now over Ferrari and we seem to be closer too, so maybe Ferrari haven't developed as much.

"We came here hoping we would be stronger than in Monaco and as good as we have been [in Montreal] over the past couple of years. BMW has always been strong on high-speed circuits and so has Sauber.

"I would be feeling more comfortable if I had completed more laps in the morning, but I think my long runs on Friday were good. The tyres did grain quite heavily, but with more rubber on the circuit in race conditions it should be better.

"I think we have a chance [to get a podium], probably the best we have had so far this season, but of course we don't know how much fuel the Ferraris have on-board yet. They haven't been that quick here, but that could also have led them into going longer on the strategy because I don't think they would have made the front row anyway. They are a bit closer to McLaren than they were at Monaco, but the McLarens are just flying at the moment. It's far too early to rule Ferrari out though, because as they have proved in the past they are capable of coming back."

 

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