Interview with Nick Heidfeld Q: Does the work on Friday change for the drivers with the new regulations in place ? Heidfeld: ''Not too much. Theoretically you would like to do a lot more than in the past. Especially at the next races when the updates arrive. But you only have a limited amount of time. Accordingly you simply try to better make use of the time you have. But like you've already seen in Melbourne, at the start of the practice session there were no cars on track either. There it was certainly a lot worse because the track was so dirty. But you don't learn a lot going out on a circuit that is as slow as it was at the beginning.''
Q: Isn't that contradictory. Shouldn't you be out on track every minute ? Heidfeld: ''No, it's not contradictory. You cannot draw conclusion when the track is two seconds slower and ten minutes later two seconds faster. Like that it's impossible to make comparisons.''
Q: Not even on the basis of calculations and data ? Heidfeld: ''What you need are clear results, this year more so than last year. If you weren't sure last year then you would simply go out another time. Now you have to make sure that in the shortest possible time you come up with clear results. Because it may happen that you only test a part once. You say 'yes' or 'no' to it and then you consequently will always use it, or never again.''
Q: How much theoretical preparatory work can you carry out ? Heidfeld: ''You keep even closer eye on whether the correlation between the wind tunnel and simulation work perfectly fits with what you find on track. But that's something that was already tried out in the past as well. With a new car you have to relearn this process every time. Last year things didn't always work out for us in the wind tunnel. But I think we've got it right. But the concept of this year's car is so different from that of its predecessor that issues could still easily occur.'' Q: Would it not make sense to build a simulator ? Heidfeld: ''No. Not even the simulator that I knew from my time at Williams brought me anything as a driver. I know that there are also other teams that use simulators for set-up and development work. I cannot assess if it really brings you anything.''
Q: So in which directions can you work on a Friday ? Is there enough time to decide whether you're willing to use KERS for the rest of the weekend ? Heidfeld: ''There is. But we actually already know before the race weekend whether or not we're willing to use it and then we no longer modify the car afterwards (Malaysia was clearly an exception there I think - AFCA).''
Q: Then what does a Friday session look like ? Heidfeld: ''As hitherto on top of the list of priorities is the comparison between the two types of tires. When that's done the remaining time is spent on all the other things. There's always still set-up work to be done or perhaps some new parts to be tested. And testing new parts is an element that has been added to the list of tasks. Then there are tests that regard the reliability and endurance of the car, but nowadays they're hardly impossible to carry out.''
Q: How long does a tire comparison take ? Heidfeld: ''It's something you normally do in the afternoon when the conditions are good. It takes really long because you need to do long runs for it. But what we used to call long runs, ten or eleven laps, still isn't a race stint. And (this year) even these long runs have been shortened to seven or eight laps, ten at most. There's a hard and a soft compound and having to use them both over long runs costs time.''
Q: Why have these long runs been shortened ? Heidfeld: ''In order for us to have more time for other things.''
Q: Is there a dominating component on the car during testing this year ? Heidfeld: ''KERS for all teams that drive with it. But over the course of the season that (influence) will minimize. For example for us after we've gained enough experience with it because still now there's plenty of set-up work that requires a lot of time. And then there are also new parts that you haven't been able to drive with during winter testing.''
Q: The updates will really start to appear on the cars in Shanghai, right ? Heidfeld: ''In Melbourne we also had some small things that weren't previously used in testing.''
Q: Does it take longer than before to take decisions on Friday night ? Heidfeld: ''At the moment it does. And most of all due to KERS. That's the big unknown. And at the start of the season it always takes a little longer anyway.''
Q: Then what is taking you so long to decide with regard to KERS if it's already clear on forehand that you'll be using it ? Heidfeld: ''There are several possibilities with regard to how you apply it. And this in turn has on influence on the balance of the car, which again brings along other changes.''
Q: Are you talking about the single burst and multiple burst options that KERS offers ? Heidfeld: ''For instance, yes. And also what kind of influence this has on braking.
Q: The brake balance ? Heidfeld: ''It has an influence on the brake balance. You have to wangle it making sure no disadvantage arises. That's a problem I had on Friday in Melbourne. It's something that tends to occur especially when the grip levels are low. Then the rear end gets particularly nervous and in that case the rear wheels lock up more easily.''
Q: Last year you often used to be underway with more fuel than others on Fridays. This year your approach seems to be the same. Heidfeld: ''(Afterwards) we analyze and hope because we obviously don't know with how much fuel the others have been driving. At the beginning of FP2 in Melbourne we were third last and last, at the end of the sessions we were on P13 and P15. At first sight that looks bad. But after talks with the engineers we expected the real performance to be better than that. But that's only theoretical. We only know for sure on Saturday after qualifying.''
Q: Why do you go about it in that way ? Heidfeld: ''Certainly not to hide performance. In our opinion it's better when it comes to preparing the race. But I won't go into detail there.''
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