Nick Heidfeld was the center of attention at Jerez today as Renault evaluated him as a potential stand-in for Robert Kubica, and he now looks a certainty for the drive after topping the times on his debut for the squad.
Q. Are you pleased with how it went today?
Nick Heidfeld: Yeah, I'm very pleased. Not only with the position – that depends on various factors. But I'm happy with the job I did today, I don't think I could have done any better.
Q. Was it enough to convince the team to give you the drive?
NH: I hope so. I did the best I could, I didn't do any mistakes. I think I already helped them to understand the car and at least give some directions, which helped over the day. But this is something you have to ask Eric [Boullier].
Q. What is your initial feeling with the car?
NH: It's impossible to say where we stand. The balance in the morning was bad, but it was the first time I was in the car. The engineers did a good job in improving that.
We didn't have to do so much in one day, but the car is already very different to how it was this morning, suiting my driving style a lot more. It is still not ideal, I hope there is more to come from the feeling I have, but it's a good base.
Q. How was the KERS and the adjustable rear wing?
NH: Last year, most of the drivers in the GPDA said it might be too much. And when I was not in the car, I thought about it and thought, "It's only two buttons." But when you are driving it's a lot of things to do at the same time. It's not easy.
What made it more difficult was that I could not reach all the paddles and levers as I should because my hands are as small as my body! But that can be changed. It's not easy, but if you do it more often you get used to it.
Q. How was the KERS in particular?
NH: I think we have a good base. We worked on it a little bit today. The fact that I used KERS with BMW helped – I have some experience there, so I know how it should or shouldn't feel and what we could try.
We tried a couple of things, and I would not say it is a big problem. It is working fine, there is just some fine-tuning. The base is good – certainly better than the BMW system I used in 2009. I didn't really like that.
Q. What is most difficult when you discover a new car and you have to start driving it?
NH: To get used to the feedback. In the beginning it feels like you are sitting on top of the car. Something happens and you don't really expect it or know how to react to it.
Then if you drive more and more you feel you are one with the car. Then you might know what is going to happen, and you know how to react. That just takes some time.
Q. How much have the tires changed since you last tested for Pirelli?
NH: It's difficult to know, because this is a different car. I did most of the construction work, but hardly any work on the compounds and they have changed a lot.
I heard there were some small issues here with heat-up, and that was never the case when I drove them before. So I think they made the working range a bit smaller, and that is better because you get more grip out of the tires. They degrade quite a lot, but hopefully that will spice up the racing a bit.
Q. When you did your fastest laps, they were at the start of 10-lap runs. How was the degradation then?
NH: It was not bad. When I looked at the cars yesterday the degradation looked quite bad, but I had the feeling that I didn't struggle as much with degradation as some of the others.
Q. Have you tried all four compounds?
NH: Yes. But I won't tell you what we used to set the fastest time.
Q. Do you already have ideas for the development direction to take with this car?
NH: Yeah. I think we already started today to try and improve the car, find directions, where problems are, where strengths are. I'm obviously trying to do the best job today so I can drive in the future, but I'm also just using it as normal and trying to develop the car. It wouldn't be a lot different if I knew before that I was staying.
Q. Do you expect an answer tonight from Renault?
NH: I don't know, I haven't discussed it yet. My focus was just on today, this was what mattered. It doesn't help if you think about what they will tell you after the test. It takes the concentration away.
Q. Physically, how did you feel?
NH: I'm in good shape. Obviously I kept working out over the winter, even though it was clear for quite a while that there was no suitable seat for me. But there were still talks about being a reserve driver again.
I don't know how many laps I did today – more than 80 – and it was quite easy. I feel OK. On the other side, once you know that you will do the season, then you can do a bit more. It's different than being a test or reserve driver, you are more motivated.
Q. Robert was fastest at Valencia, you are fastest today. Does that mean that the car is not too bad, at least?
NH: I think it means the car is not s**t, but not a lot more than that. Most guys here, if they take the fuel out and put very soft tires on all day, nearly anybody could be in front. But it is not a bad sign.
Q. So will we see you at Barcelona?
NH: I hope so.
Q. Will you drive at all tomorrow?
NH: No, Bruno [Senna] will drive the whole day tomorrow.
Q. We have seen some drivers slowing down after one lap, then speeding up again. Is that to look after the tires?
NH: I don't know about the other drivers, but usually it helps the degradation if you do one lap, then stabilize the tires. It's not like before though – it might stop the degradation a bit, but not much.
Q. Can you do 25 laps pushing on these tires?
NH: It depends on the fuel level. If you put more fuel in the car then you will work the tires harder. We wanted to do a long run, but we had two red flags, unfortunately. We planned 25 laps, it would have been interesting.