Nick Heidfeld has all but clinched his substitute seat at Renault, standing in for the injured Robert Kubica. While there had been talk that the recent test venue at Jerez would feature a shoot-out between Heidfeld ant Renault tester Bruno Senna, most everyone in the team has discounted this notion.
Bruno Senna himself was the first to downplay the idea competing driver auditions. As Senna told Globo Esporte, “I was not competing with [Nick]. I came here in my role as third driver. For preparation you need more than one day in the car – they need a driver that’s ready to do it. The work I did gives me new chances with the team for the future, and they seemed to like what I did.”
Renault boss Eric Boullier echoed this by saying, “Senna’s day of testing was not to evaluate him, but rather to give him some mileage to prepare him in his role as the third driver.”
As for Heidfeld, he admitted that he felt he’d done enough to secure the seat until Kubica’s return. He told Auto Motor und Sport, “I have the feeling I have passed this test.” On Saturday, at Jerez, he topped the time sheets. He modestly admitted, however, that his lap times, while perhaps good enough to satisfy the team that he’s a worthy stand-in for Kubica, weren’t necessarily representative of the car’s relative pace.
Said Heidfeld, “Anyone can do that if they really want to, with little fuel and super soft tires.” Indeed, this was the exact charge leveled against not only Renault, but Mercedes and Williams, as well, all of whom topped the charts on at least one day during the recent test. According to paddock cynics, the quick lap times were nothing more than grandstanding in cars that were running on gas fumes and sticky tires.
Be that as it may, Heidlfeld is certainly the most prudent choice for Renault at this juncture. Bruno Senna need not feel threatened: he was never in the picture in the first place. Fortunately for him, he’s sensible enough to realize that.
The person who might have some cause for concern, on the other hand, is Vitaly Petrov, the regular number two driver. Should Heidfeld outperform the Russian on a regular basis, Renault will have a difficult time justifying keeping Petrov on the team next year, rather than hiring Heidfeld as his replacement.
And Heidfeld looks ready to settle in at the team for as long as the assignment lasts. I noticed he has a new helmet color scheme that’s color coordinated with Renault’s new black and gold car livery. Coincidence? I think not.