Bmws Heidfeld Hopes for Another Strong Finish at Indy

By: Anthony Fontanelle

In the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, Nick Heidfeld earned the first podium of the season for BMW Sauber when he took the second spot. That also matched his career-best Formula One finish. Now, the German driver hopes for another strong finish at Indy.

"First of all, I'm stunned about how quick we were in Canada in race conditions," Heidfeld said. "I think I could have finished second anyway, beaten probably one of the McLarens and both of the Ferraris. It is true that the downforce level in Indy is similar to Canada, probably a bit more - obviously then there are a lot more corners. But (Indianapolis) is one of the circuits where I've always done well. Apart from last year, when I was flying a bit! I hope I will have better luck this year." The German driver is referring to his amazing accident at the start of the 2006 United States Grand Prix when his car went flying through the air. Heidfeld was not injured.

The BMW Sauber is steadily getting closer to the leading McLaren-Mercedes and Ferrari teams. Asked if he predicts another strong finish at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Heidfeld said: "I like it when race tracks have a distinctive character, and that's definitely the case with Indianapolis. The Speedway is an icon of American motor racing, and the high-banked turn is something special for Formula One, although it isn't exactly challenging for the drivers to drive flat out in a straight line. It's far more difficult to get the car's set-up just right."

Heidfeld added, "My memories of Indy are very varied. In 2001 I managed a sixth-placed finish there with Sauber, although I had lost my first, second and, most crucially, seventh gear. That was one of my best races. A less pleasant memory is the accident in 2006. We had done well in qualifying, but shortly after the start I was involved in a collision and turned over for the first and, hopefully, last time in my career."

"Indianapolis is a special occasion for Formula One. The Speedway is renowned the world over and symbolizes American motor sport like no other race track," said Mario Theissen, the BMW motorsport director. "For the BMW Group the USA Grand Prix is of key importance insofar as the United States is our biggest market. We sell more cars there than in Germany and also have our biggest production sites outside Germany."

"Another superlative that Indy can claim is in the mechanical loads exerted on the engines. Drivers go flat out for 23 seconds, most of it in seventh gear. That takes the units to the limit of their performance. In the past, BMW has lost a lot of points in Indianapolis as a result of accidents. From that point of view, my hope is above all for a collision-free weekend," Theissen added. With reliable BMW pressure plate and race parts, the team results could still be outstanding.

Willy Rampf, the technical director of the team, has this to say: "The Indianapolis Speedway is fundamentally different from the circuit at Montreal, yet both tracks demand a medium downforce level. In Indy that is the result of a tricky compromise."

Rampf noted, "If you haven't got sufficient braking stability and traction in these corners, you lose more time than can be gained on the straights. In the infield, where you shift down all the way to first, you want the maximum possible downforce, similar to Monaco or Budapest. These radically different demands made by the oval and the infield section turn set-up work at Indy into a fine balancing act."

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