Q&A with Nick Heidfeld

Nick Heidfeld hopes that BMW Sauber’s new F1.09, which was unveiled today in Valencia, will help him challenge for wins in 2009.

How important is talent in F1, and how much of the driver’s art can be learnt?
“Talent, to me, means good instincts, good vehicle control, enjoying what you’re doing and, last but not least, being very fast. Those aren’t things you can learn, and to that extent talent is the most important thing a driver needs. But you still have to put a lot of work in to get the best out of yourself. Data recording now covers pretty much everything and it can teach you a lot. But interpreting the data and drawing the right conclusions takes time and concentration."

What’s the most important thing you learnt in 2008?
“That it pays to keep a cool head in any situation."

What difference do you expect the reintroduction of slicks to make?
“In previous years I’ve always said that slicks were the first change I would like to see. So I’m happy to see them come back. F1 cars belong on slicks. They look better too. I never liked the idea of making compromises at the one and only interface between the power and capabilities of a Formula One car and the track surface. I think slicks will help my driving style. Then again, Formula One cars, particularly with the forthcoming changes, are extremely complex, and so are tires. So I can’t really say anything for sure until we’ve got some experience under our belts with the F1.09 and have measured ourselves against the competition."

How far do you think you and the team can go in 2009?
“It’s been impressive the way we achieved our goals in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Normally I would say we would be sure to do it again in 2009, and be in with a fighting chance of winning the title. But all the new rules for next season could potentially create a whole new ballgame. I very much hope, though, that we’ll put in a strong performance."

You’re interested in art – do you have a favorite piece?
“Yes, it’s a work by the Canadian artist Zilon, called “Demons", and it’s been hanging above our dining table for a number of years. At first sight it looks rather chaotic, just colored lines and thick splotches of paint. But gradually you start to discover the faces of the demons – at first just one in the centre of the picture, then more and more of them, until finally they’re everywhere. It’s an exciting piece. I bought it in Montreal, where there are some great galleries in the old quarter. That’s one of the reason’s I hope to get back there again some time soon!"

Your own personal fleet of cars is growing. What models do you own?
“I’ve got a BMW M3, which I really enjoy driving, and an X5, which we can also pack the children and the dog into. The X5 is not just very spacious, it’s also ideal in the Swiss mountains, where we often have snow. Patricia is still driving a MINI Cooper S. We’ve also got some classics, like a 1967 Beetle convertible. I’m extremely fond of that car. My mother has always driven a Beetle convertible, and still does. To my mind the whole sound, and the memories it brings back, make it the best convertible in the world. I also like the styling of the Ford Mustang – I own a 1965 fastback. There’s a 1966 Fiat 500 in our garage as well."

No sports cars?
“Oh yes. But if I say I’ve got a Ferrari, a Porsche or a Lotus, people think I’m boasting. And that’s not my thing."

Do you ever feel afraid?
“On the race track I’m hardly ever afraid – except if I’m involved in a spin or an accident and waiting for the impact. Obviously that’s a moment when you do feel scared. Otherwise, when I think back to my childhood, everybody used to say I didn’t know the meaning of the word fear. If there was something to climb or something else to get up to, there was no holding me back."

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