Debut & Prost (2000)
Heidfeld began his F1 career back in 2000, when he signed a deal to drive for the Prost Team alongside Formula 1 veteran Jean Alesi. It was not a promising start for the young German with numerous retirements and several incidents whereby he collided with his own team mate. However Heidfeld did manage to sign a 3 year deal to drive for Sauber from 2001.
Heidfeld would partner rookie Finn Kimi Raikkonen. Heidfeld manage to out perform the very fast Finn and even managed to collect a 3rd place podium finish at the 2001 Brazilian GP. The young German managed to score 12 points over the course of the season and ended up a fine 8th in only his second season.
Many thought that Heidfeld would be the natural selection to replace retiring McLaren driver Mika Hakkinen, but it was Raikkonen who was chosen over him to get the chance to driver from McLaren Mercedes. Instead the German remained at Sauber for 2002 and was again partnered by another rookie, this time Felipe Massa.
Yet again Heidfeld was the main point scorer at Sauber, out performing his younger and far more inexperienced Brazilian team mate. However the table was reversed the following year when he was joined at Sauber by fellow German Heinz-Harald Frentzen.
Sauber chose to drop him after a dismal season and it looked like Heidfeld would be without a race seat for 2004 that was until he was confirmed to drive for the Jordan Team. Yet the car that Jordan gave Heidfeld was slow, unreliable and showed no sign of getting any better. Nick did manage to score 3 points over the course of the season, but it was not what he hoped for.
Heidfeld’s big break came in 2005 when it was announced that he would be driving for the Williams BMW team that year. He took a fine 3rd place podium finish at that the 2005 Malaysian GP as well as a career best 2nd place result at the Monaco GP. Heidfeld looked to on the way up and this was confirmed at the next race in Europe where he took his maiden Pole Position on home soil.
Although he did not go on to win the race he did finish in another strong 2nd place. However a sudden down turn in pace and reliability of the Williams during mid season relegated the German driver to the back of the pack.
A testing accident in which Heidfeld injured himself forced him to miss both the Italian & Belgium GP’s. But hopes of a return before the end of the season never materialised. He was deputised by Williams reserve driver Antonio Pizzonia.
BMW Sauber (2006-2009)
With BMW dropping the Williams team at the end of 2005 and purchasing the Sauber team, Heidfeld moved to race for the newly formed BMW Sauber for 2006. He would partner former World Champion Jacques Villeneuve. Heidfeld scored the majority of the points for the team that season, including a first podium finish for BMW Sauber at the Hungarian GP. However it was not all plain sailing, at the United States GP, Heidfeld was eliminated in spectacular fashion at the first corner when his car was hurled into a quadruple barrel roll. Miraculously the German walked away unscathed.
2007 saw BMW Sauber emerged as the 3rd best team in the field behind McLaren & Ferrari and again it was Heidfeld who did the majority of the scoring. With points finishes in all but 3 races, Heidfeld cemented his position as one of F1’s most consistent drivers of the season. Strong results in particular came at Canada, where he finished 2nd and in Hungary where he finished 3rd.
For 2008 BMW’s goal was clear – to win a race. But Heidfeld’s hopes of being the driver to deliver this were taken away as it was his team mate Robert Kubica who took the team’s maiden win in Canada, forcing Heidfeld to play second fiddle to the Polish driver for the rest of the season. Although Nick did take four fine 2nd place finishes in Australia, Canada, Britain & Belgium.
The writing was on the wall almost immediately for Heidfeld in 2009. The BMW was off the pace right from the start of winter testing and the team wasted time trying to develop their KERS that simply did not work. Nick did manage a lucky podium finish at the rain soaked 2009 Malaysian GP, by virtue of staying on the track, but that is where the champagne stopped.
Heidfeld finished a miserable and uncompetitive season in13th with only 19 points. Perhaps adding salt to the wound, Nick was BMW’s protégé and chosen driver, but with the team announcing their departure from Formula 1 at the end of 2009, Heidfeld was left without a race seat going in 2010.
Mercedes Test Driver (2010)
Nick after being unable to secure a race seat joined Mercedes in 2010 as their reserve and test driver, completing the all German driver line-up.