Jumat, 17 Oktober 2008

Nick Heidfeld F1 Formula Driver


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Nick Heidfeld came to F1 with a reputation that reminded many of fellow German Michael Schumacher.

The then 23-year-old reigning F3000 Champion rose steadily through karts, Formula Ford, F3 and F3000 before reaching the pinnacle of the sport in 2000.

Blindingly quick, Heidfeld also displayed a maturity that belied his age.

He made his F1 debut with Prost, but could not have imagined how difficult his season would turn out to be. The AP03 was miserably unreliable, and to top it off Heidfeld struggled to fit in with the team after a series of disagreements with team-mate Alesi.

A disastrous season saw Nick wondering where all the praise had gone, and the German was relieved to be snapped up by Sauber for 2001.

The Swiss outfit showed what sound engineering coupled with a very reliable engine and gearbox package can do. Nick grabbed his first podium in Brazil and ended the season 7th in the drivers' table with 12 points and generally enjoyed the upper hand over Kimi Raikkonen.

Though the Sauber/Ferrari package was again quick at the start of 2002, the team's lack of testing and development meant that they gradually slipped to the back of the field as other teams overtook them through the season.

To make matters worse, rookie team-mate Felipe Massa often outqualified him.

His best finish was fourth in Barcelona and Nick finished the year in 10th place with seven points and the prospect of spending 2003 with a driver from his home town (Frentzen).

The two Germans gave their all that season, but mediocre grid slots made scoring points none too easy.

The highlight of 2003, and what also proved to be the race weekend when Sauber announced they were parting with both drivers, was the U.S. GP.

The pair finished in the points with Heidfeld narrowly being beaten by his team-mate to the Indy podium. Nick finished 14th with six points and landed himself a one-year contract, or nightmare, with Jordan.

2004 and a hugely underperforming EJ13 must have made the German believe he was back at Prost, living through yet another bad dream.

A seventh place at Monaco was his best finish of the season. But at least, given the nature of the Monte Carlo street circuit, it was proof that it was the car and not the driver that was responsible for the unsatisfactory results.

Canada yielded yet another point-scoring finish - albeit just one - and was entirely thanks to the disqualification of four cars that finished ahead of him.

Little did Nick know it was to be his final reward in a difficult season that almost resulted in his F1 career coming to an end.

Determined to leave Jordan after the Brazilian GP, Nick found himself without a team and with the majority of the top seats already filled.

However, a late opening at Williams - thanks to F1's Contract Recognition Board ruling that Jenson Button wasn't allowed to join the Grove team - left Sir Frank in desperate need of a driver.

After two months of rigorous testing and head-to-head tussles with Antonio Pizzonia, Heidfeld was eventually awarded Williams' second seat and lined up alongside Mark Webber at the season-opening Australian GP.

But driving a woefully inadequate FW25, the results Nick wanted - and had expected - didn't materialise, although he did get the upper hand over Webber, bagging three podium achievements in the first seven races compared to Webber's one.

And when his Williams career was prematurely ended by a testing accident ahead of the Italian GP, Nick was the top Williams man in the drivers' standings.

Unfortunately the injury - as well as a subsequent one suffered while recovering from the first at home - ensured Nick didn't compete in the final five races of 2005.

However his performances, especially those at the start of the season, had already secured him a race seat for 2006 with the new BMW-Sauber outfit.

Despite many pundits expecting it to be a year of learning for the new team, it proved to be quite a successful one with Nick claiming their maiden podium finish at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Another nine races finished in the points saw him bag 23 points in total, elevating him to ninth in the Drivers' Championship.

Confirmed as a BMW driver for 2007, expect more podium finishes as the German and his team work their way up towards becoming title contenders.

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