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Heidfeld on the comeback trail

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Sarah Holt | 16:00 UK time, Thursday, 23 September 2010

As Singapore's skies threw down another shower of fat, warm raindrops on Thursday, there was a flurry of activity outside Sauber's motorhome.

A media melee ran to shelter under the team's large garden umbrellas - which handily also provided the setting for the first glimpse of Nick Heidfeld on his return to Formula 1 racing.

The German has been a fixture in the paddock all season but often cut an isolated figure as he drifted on the sidelines as Mercedes' reserve driver.

But, after being named as Pedro de la Rosa's replacement for the final five races of 2010, Heidfeld was glad to be back in the spotlight.

"I couldn't wish for anything better," said the 33-year-old, who will now get his 11th season in Formula 1 under way in Singapore.

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Heidfeld, who lost his race seat after German car giant BMW withdrew from the sport at the end of last season, added: "I never thought it was over.

"Of course, you're never 100% sure but I always believed that I would be back."

He may not be famed for his humorous repartee - some wicked journalists have taken to calling him 'Interesting Nick' - but Heidfeld raised a few laughs in the official media conference.

When one journalist remarked that three different jobs in the space of a month - Mercedes reserve, tyre tester for 2011 supplier Pirelli and now a Sauber driver - was not bad even for an F1 driver, Heidfeld replied dryly: "Yes, if they all paid well."

Another question from the floor asking exactly what information he had gleaned about next year's tyres was met with Heidfeld hiding behind his hand and whispering: "I will speak quietly."

In reality, Heidfeld's job-juggling is no laughing matter - it is exactly the reason why the German has suddenly found himself a valuable asset for Sauber.

Team boss Peter Sauber says he re-signed Heidfeld - who drove for his team from 2001-03 and then again from 2006-09 when the team was run by BMW - to help Sauber judge the "comparative potential" of their car.

Heidfeld's knowledge of next season's Pirelli tyres will be valuable as the Swiss team plot the development of their 2011 challenger.

In theory, Heidfeld will understand more about how to design a car in tandem with the new tyres and how to eke performance out of them than any other driver on the grid.

With his Sauber contract only inked for the final quintet of races, Heidfeld hopes his tyres secrets will help him secure a race seat in 2011.

Jenson Button and girlfriend Jessica Michibata shelter from the rain on their way into the Marina Bay Circuit in Singapore

Rain is forecast for all three days over the Singapore weekend. Photo: Reuters

"Having driven for Pirelli, it should help," he added. "Some people would argue that it would have been better to stay testing and have even more of an advantage for next year but when I had the chance to sign for Sauber I definitely wanted to come back.

"I want to race. I believe I can do a good job.

"The situation for next year is completely open with Sauber but also with other teams that I have already been in talks over the last couple of weeks."

Heidfeld will make his return to the cockpit in Friday practice around the Marina Bay circuit, when he could once again share centre stage with Singapore's skies.

The bumpy, slippery street circuit has never played host to a single wet session but the forecast is for thundery showers and, as Heidfeld has found out, sometimes it pays to expect the unexpected.

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  • 1. At 6:12pm on 23 Sep 2010, 50in50 wrote:

    Nice blog.
    Always been a fan of Heidfeld, and I felt he was unlucky not to find a seat at the start of the season. He's a driver who you can rely on to get you a points finish, so let's hope he keeps up that reputation at Sauber.

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  • 2. At 6:51pm on 23 Sep 2010, Lewis Standing wrote:

    Good article I have always liked Heidfelt at racing, not so much the interviews he gives. So I am pleased his stock has risen, after being kept out of a drive by an out of form Schumacher for most of the season. Obviously a great scoop to get the pirelli job, may just have secured him an F1 career that might have fizzled out otherwise.
    Question though sarah, why is there a picture of Jenson with this article? much as I appreciate his talent and his rather attractive special lady friend, its bemusing if its only there to show the rain.
    Good entry though keep it up!

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  • 3. At 7:19pm on 23 Sep 2010, tomtom094 wrote:

    I like Heidfeld as a racer for his consistency. Not sure he's really suited to a mid-table team like Sauber but he should complement Kamikaze Kobayashi quite nicely, and I wouldn't be surprised if his contract was extended into next season.

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  • 4. At 00:29am on 24 Sep 2010, Time For Peddlers Menorah aka Grimsby_Robin wrote:

    Always have been a big Heidfeld fan right back form his first stint with Sauber in 2001. He is in the same league as the top drivers in F1 such as Webber, Massa and Kubica who he has beaten as team mates so he deserves his place on the grid.

    I just hope in 2011 he gets a car to show his full potential and be able to fight for podiums and wins. He deserves a win more than any other driver. Go SUPER Nick!!

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  • 5. At 05:27am on 24 Sep 2010, SMI64 wrote:

    Nick Heidfeld is one of the most underrated drivers. In his direct confrontations with Alonso ( Monaco 2005, Bahrain 2007, Spain 2007 and many more ) he has generally got the upperhand over Alonso. Most of the time Alonso had a better car. It would have been a different story had he been driving the Mercedes. Even in 2001 he had more points than Raikkonen who was his team mate.

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  • 6. At 08:50am on 24 Sep 2010, hackerjack wrote:

    He was not unlucky not to find a seat, he CHOSE to take the testing role at Mercedes despite still having the chance at a Sauber race seat.

    Good driver yes, underrated no, he just doesn't have the same competitive/perfectionist drive as an Alonso, Hamilton, Webber, Button, Kubica or Vettel, if he did then he would have been with a top team already.

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  • 7. At 10:07am on 24 Sep 2010, Kai FT wrote:

    I think Heidfeld would be the best teammate i can imagine. Quick, consistent anf with technical knowledge to get the team big points in the championship and keep others at bay, but not quite competitive to challange for number 1.

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  • 8. At 08:02am on 17 Oct 2010, olivia wrote:

    That point were interesting , i like it ....
    *************
    olivia
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

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