Nick Heidfeld

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Nick Heidfeld

Post by Tufty »

I've always wondered this, and writing my essays in the Schumacher legacy thread got me thinking further. How do we rate Nick Heidfeld?

I'll openly admit I was never a fan of his, but I can't put my finger on why. He seems a nice enough guy and I don't think anyone would class him as a hopeless driver - he was in the sport for almost a decade, so he can't have been THAT bad.

From memory (wifi and software problems are limiting my access to championship records) Heidfeld generally seemed to match his teammates for pace, whoever they might be. The only exception that springs to mind is 2008, although even there BMW screwed him out of a win by favouring Kubica.

I know this forum isn't the place we're meant to deal in hypotheticals, but it can be interesting sometimes to see how different people consider circumstances working out, so:

Do we think Heidfeld had the potential to be a top tier driver? Could he have matched someone like Schumacher or Alonso (assuming it was at least 2005, so he has enough experience under his belt to know what he's doing in an F1 car) or was he more of a journeyman driver, only really good enough to play rear gunner to a championship contending teammate?

I hope this proves an interesting debate.
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Re: Nick Heidfeld

Post by Lotus49 »

I struggle to place quick Nick, he did tend to be on his team mates pace and beat some pretty good drivers albeit as rookies (Kimi and Massa) and Kubica and JV and was pretty close to Webber in his first year at the team. But for whatever reason some bigger teams took his team mates instead so there must be something. (Not that BMW weren't a big team)

I definitely think he'd have won multiple races in better cars but I don't think he was Schumacher/Alonso level but more the Webber and Kimi level so whether he'd have got a title would be down to who was sitting next to him.
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Re: Nick Heidfeld

Post by BMWSauber84 »

He was pretty unlucky in that he outscored Kimi and Massa as teammates, but they got the big moves to Mclaren and Ferrari respectively.

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Re: Nick Heidfeld

Post by Arbitrarius »

Heidfeld lost out twice to driving for McLaren. The first time was to Raikkonen and the second time was to Button.
My opinion is that the deciding factor in the first case was that Ron Dennis was looking for a surrogate Hakkinen. Both drivers were evenly matched at the time but, of course, Raikkonen delivered so it wasn't the wrong choice.
In the case of Button, I recall that a contract was almost sorted with Heidfeld when Button suddenly became available. Clearly, there was no competition this time. I think McLaren's logic was that Heidfeld would be a Coulthard-like driver - fast, but not quite enough to trouble Hamilton. With Button, they probably figured the same but he was obviously more marketable as a WDC and he wasn't an 'alpha' in a way that would destabilise the team.

If BMW hadn't screwed up its F1 programme, Heidfeld may have won races and perhaps even a title, in much the same way Damon Hill managed at Williams. Or... Kubica would have centred the team around himself and Heidfeld would have ended up playing the Coulthard role.

Ultimately, I think Heidfeld's personality was too much like Williams-era Damon Hill's. Boullier said Heidfeld didn't show any leadership the way Kubica did. Even though the statement was unfair in the context - with your number 1 driver in hospital, the one to show leadership was Boullier, not the driver filling in on a temporary contract - I think this was what Heidfeld lacked. Heidfeld was fast and talented, but so were other drivers who had more ego. If you look at his contemporaries who won races and titles, which ones would have given up a first win under the same circumstances as Heidfeld to Kubica?

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Re: Nick Heidfeld

Post by F1 MERCENARY »

The real issue was the Nick was too much of a nice guy and for all his quickness, he lacked the killer instinct and cold blooded selfishness others have within them. On his day he was as quick as anyone, but circumstances had to favor him and his car well in order for him to look supreme.

BMW never prioritized him as they always had their eye on the other guy instead of putting their efforts behind him which must have felt like a stab in the back season after season being as he worked his tail off to help engineers develop and refine the cars, and from what I know and remember, his technical input was better than all his teammates with the exception of Kubica which was technically savvy, yet still not on Heidfeld's level. Just a case of being on the right team who refused to make it the right time for him and it likely cost them just as much as it did him. He was involved in very few incidents in his career as he was as clean and fair a driver as they come, but again, that speaks to his lack of killer instinct. With the car control and spacial awareness he had, he'd have taken wins and podiums from others if he been more aggressive all the time.

Where he got a bigtime raw deal was at Lotus because he came to their rescue well past the 11th hour and was doing quite well before being dismissed mid-season for no apparent reason. He also continued to do very well in the e-Series against a mix of younger and well experienced guys, but somehow faded away from the racing scene altogether.

I would have liked to see him go up against Hamilton at McLaren to better gauge his overall speed and ability, but it didn't happen so we can all only speculate that he'd have been about as close, perhaps closer to Lewis as Bottas has been at times, only his performance wouldn't fluctuate anywhere near as much as Bottas. If I were to wager a significant amount of money, I'd bet he'd have fared better than Rosberg by the slimmest of margins because of his consistency, putting him really close to Hamilton which is damn excellent.

I spoke with Bob Varsha while he was still with BMW and he felt similarly about Quick Nick and was gutted when he was left without a seat in F1, much like when Ocon and now Hulkenburg were left without seats.

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Re: Nick Heidfeld

Post by myattitude »

I thought he was a terrific driver who would hang with anyone. Even in 2008 his problems were related to temporary tyre heating issues in qualifying rather than an actual pace deficit. I agree he lacked the killer instinct though. He had Schumacher/Alonso's consistency but just lacked the extra few % in determination that would have made him an Alonso level driver, although he drove even better than Alonso in 2007.

If McLaren had taken him on from 2002 and given him the support they gave Kimi and Mika, I can see his legacy being much higher than it is today.

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Re: Nick Heidfeld

Post by DOLOMITE »

NH has was always an enigma, and the fact that he still is, is maybe an indication of why he never got that top drive. Just a bit grey. Always good, often excellent but never quite delivered a drive that put him on the top teams shopping lists when they were looking. That combined with the fact that he didn't exactly come across as particularly assertive so probably never went out there knocking on the doors of principals and selling himself. It feels like he was top of tier 2, but every time a top-team was looking for a driver, there was always someone proven available or someone who showed more potential.

I think he deserved better, could definitely have a Coulthard, Barrichello, Bottas type legacy instead of a Hulkenberg (the "other" NH) one.

Obviously in time honoured tradition you can't post about Heidfeld without mentioning Kubica. I never quite bought into the Kubica hype. He was good, and probably slightly better than Heidfeld, but I don't see why Kubica with his one fortunate win, is lauded as the champ-that-should-have-been while Heidfeld is barely a footnote.
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