Renault says that the vacant seat in its lead car is effectively Nick Heidfeld's to lose, as the team prepares to evaluate the experienced German in testing this weekend. Heidfeld is already at Jerez, and offered his thoughts about his former BMW teammate Robert Kubica's horrendous rally accident and his own potential stand-in seat with Renault.
Q. You've been here before, haven't you?
Nick Heidfeld: It's not the first time I'm in a situation where it looked like it would be difficult to have a drive, but now I have a chance.
Q. Will your Pirelli experience help?
NH: I think it should be an advantage. The tires definitely have changed after I left. But I did most of the work on the construction side, and just a little bit of work on the compounds.
But definitely I have quite some knowledge about them, and they shouldn't suit me too bad. I didn't try to develop a tire that suited me and not the others, but naturally you cannot tell the engineers that a tire is good if you don't like it. So it shouldn't be too bad, and I hope that can be an advantage.
Q. Do you have a plan for how to approach this test?
NH: I will handle it as I have always done. I will push the limit as soon as I feel confident to go there. However long that takes. I don't go in there thinking I will take it slow straight away, I will just do what comes naturally.
Q. Have you had much time to learn about the car?
NH: Not enough! Everything was very short term. I have been in the factory, spoken to the engineers, to Eric [Boullier]. We haven't made a seat yet, we have to do that here tonight and maybe tomorrow night.
Everything is very tight, and I will not be in there straight away knowing everything. But we should be OK.
Q. When did you know you would be driving here?
NH: Yesterday. I spoke to Eric and that's when it became clear.
Q. What are your feelings about Robert?
NH: Of course, it's horrible. It was a very strange feeling for me when I heard about it Sunday morning, that there was a crash. I hoped that it was not too bad.
Then I was on the Internet most of the day, and as you know, it's difficult to know what to believe on the Internet. But it was the only info I could get.
The first info I saw was that he broke a leg, but unfortunately it turned out a lot worse. But if you see the car, with the guardrail sticking out of the back, I think the situation was quite dramatic.
Luckily, since then, the information that has come to us has gotten better. They were not sure if he would survive, there was talk about amputation of the hand. Even if I had not been his teammate, to hear something like this is really shocking. It was horrible.
Of course, I hope he will recover as soon as possible. On the other side, if there is a chance given to me, I will try to take it.
Q. You hurt yourself a few years ago. What is the limit of what a driver can do outside Formula 1?
NH: I was cycling! It can happen so quickly. Obviously, there are things that are more of a risk than others, and rallying is probably one of those. Everybody has to decide for himself what they will do.
As far as I understand, he was very unlucky that the guardrail was not as it should be. But that's how it is in life and in racing. Unfortunately, things are not always perfect.
Q. How do you expect Robert to react?
NH: His love for motor racing is clear, this is probably why he does rallying. He will do everything to come back, and as we all know he had an accident a few years ago where he also came back quicker than expected. Now, the doctors are surprised that he is already able to move his fingers in such a short period of time.
For sure he will be very motivated and will try as hard as possible to come back. It's very difficult to know exactly what is going on with him, in his mind, and how he is feeling. I read stories of other people who had big accidents, and I think it can be quite difficult. But people who are elite in their sports and have a big love for something, usually have a big power to come back. Robert is very clearly one of those people.