The wrong place at the wrong time: this familiar quotation was particularly apt for Nick Heidfeld at the Spanish Grand Prix. The German was leading at the "Circuit de Catalunya" when the safety car came out onto the track. The timing could not have been more unfortunate...
After Heikki Kovalainen's accident, from which the Finn thankfully emerged without serious injury, Nick was one of the few drivers in the field who had not yet come in for their first pit stop. None of the top teams' drivers had taken on as much fuel as the 30-year-old, which subsequently explained his ninth place in qualifying.
Leading the field, Nick was preparing for his late pit stop when the safety car was deployed. The regulations specify that the pit lane be closed at the start of a safety-car period, in order to bring the field together. Only once the Race Director has given the corresponding signal can tyres be changed and cars refuelled.
Nick had no choice, as he had almost exhausted his fuel supply. "At the end of lap 22 I got the order from my race engineer to come in. However, it was a matter of seconds too late, as I had just passed the entrance to the pit lane," says Heidfeld, describing the situation. "Then the safety car came out and the pit lane was closed. I tried, of course, to save fuel and delay my stop, but ultimately had the choice of either running out of fuel on the track, or accepting a time penalty. That was just bad luck, and ruined my race."
Nick is not the first driver to have lost valuable positions, and in this case points, as a result of this "lottery" in the pit lane. According to the calculations of the BMW Sauber F1 Team, Nick old would have finished fifth, behind Robert Kubica, had he not been given the stop-and-go penalty.
Nick says: "We have all been in discussions to find a better solution for months. Formula One should not be decided by luck or misfortune. However, at the moment we have this rule, and so it was logical that I was going to get the time penalty."Source BMW Sauber