Nick Heidfeld scored BMW Sauber's first ever podium finish with third in Hungary this year and while it may have been slightly fortuitous, it was a bit more than the team had expected in its debut season. Heading into 2007 expectations are high...
Nick Heidfeld scored BMW Sauber's first ever podium finish with third in Hungary this year and while it may have been slightly fortuitous, it was a bit more than the team had expected in its debut season. Heading into 2007 expectations are high for BMW and Heidfeld but the German is always aware of the difficulties in Formula One.
"We expect to keep it moving and obviously the higher you get the more difficult it is to make up positions," Heidfeld told Motorsport.com at the Formula BMW World Final in Valencia.
"BMW's goal is to win in the future, we don't expect it for this year (he means 2007) but it's important that we keep going in the right direction. From what I see inside the team I have a very good feeling but in Formula One you never really know what's going to happen the next day. But it makes it exciting."
Now winter testing is under way BMW, like the other previously Michelin partnered teams, has to get used to the Bridgestone tyres. Heidfeld has a lot to say about tyres. "We have some data and numbers which are already in the computer for simulations for next year, for the wind tunnel. But the most important thing is to see it on the circuit, to drive it," he commented about the switch to Japanese rubber.
Sauber was formerly a Bridgestone partner so will that help? "Yes and no. I think the tyres have changed a lot since then, so it will not be the same, but I think it might help the team as they know what can change. They may have more ideas about what directions to take and perhaps that can help."
We often heard it said that tyres would decide the championship this season but from 2007 Bridgestone will be the sole supplier and that competition has gone. "I think, as with many things, there are ups and downs," Heidfeld said. "For me in Formula One you need the competition, so on the engine side I don't like it, that they decrease the engines, but on the tyre side in one way it's the same, we need competition."
"But then you look at last year and there was always the discussion about which tyres were a lot better…it depends if you have the better tyre or not. If you are lucky, and like in the past Michelin was better, obviously it was easier if you were on Michelins. But especially at the end of the season I think Bridgestone had a really strong tyre and then it was harder!"
The argument about a return to slicks never really goes away and Heidfeld is definitely in favour. "If I was given the opportunity to change one thing in Formula One I would go back to slicks. I don't understand why we are on grooved tyres."
"The main reason was to reduce the speeds, for safety, but for me grooved tyres don't do that at all. If you take two cars, one on slicks and one on grooved tyres, the biggest difference you get on grooved tyres is in low speed corners, because there you need the grip from the tyres and low speed corners are not really that dangerous."
"In high speed corners, that's where the errors can come and if you spin in high speed corners you go sideways and lose all the aero from the car because it's not designed to go sideways. The slick tyres would help to reduce the speed but the grooved tyres don't give you the grip… It's Formula One -- we should be on slicks."
Since Michael Schumacher announced his retirement the German media has gone into overdrive looking for the next German champion. Heidfeld, as much as any of the other Germans, is under scrutiny but he shrugs it off.
"When you are in Formula One you are used to pressure but the biggest pressure is that which you give yourself, it doesn't come from the outside," he said. "Yes, I think about my chances to become world champion but not only since Michael left!"
"I think I'm in a better position than ever, I'm in the strongest team I've ever been in and I have a good feeling for the future. When I joined BMW they had decided to buy a team and really go for it in Formula One in a very difficult time, because Formula One is very strong at the moment, there are a lot of very tough competitors."
"It's not like in the past when only three teams could win and there are no small teams any more, we have all the big companies in there. BMW knew how difficult it is and how much time it can take, how much money is needed and still they decided to do it, which made me very confident."
BMW had an accomplished first season as a team in its own right. Fifth in the standings behind the likes of consecutive double World Champions Renault, then Ferrari, McLaren and Honda was hardly a bad year for a debut. 2007 is already looming and Heidfeld, as always, is confident but realistic.
"Inside the team we have high expectations but probably not as high as some people from the outside might think," he said. "You cannot be world champions in one year -- other people might think you only have to put a BMW sticker on it to win but we all know it's not possible. But, of course, expectations are high. It's BMW: they don't want to just take part, they want to win."