|First race||Australian Grand Prix||Albert Park||March 12, 2000||Race results|
|Last race||Hungarian Grand Prix||Hungaroring||July 31, 2011||Race results|
Standing at just 5"4', Nick Heidfeld is one of the shortest men on the F1 grid. Despite his nickname, "Quick Nick", Heidfeld has never won an F1 race, and holds the dubious honour of having started the most races without a race victory.
After starting his career on two wheels, racing his brothers at motocross before his fifth birthday, Heidfeld began go-kart racing at the age of 11. Successes at national and international level led to his progression into Formula Ford in 1994, where he won eight out of nine races to take the German title in his debut season. After two titles in three seasons in Formula Ford, he moved onto Formula 3, where with five victories, including victory in Monaco, he took the title at the first attempt, earning him a test with McLaren. In 1998 he graduated to the European Formula 3000 championship, finishing second in his rookie year and winning the following year, alongside testing for McLaren.
In 2000, aged 22, Heidfeld made his F1 debut, partnering veteran Jean Alesi at Prost, but in a frustrating rookie season failed to score any points. He then moved to Sauber, where he partnered newcomer Kimi Raikkonen. In the opening race of the season in Australia he took fourth for his first. Then, just two races later, he finished behind David Coulthard and Michael Schumacher to visit t podium for the first time. Despite beating his team-mate in the drivers' championship, it was Raikkonen who was offered a drive at McLaren for the 2002 season.
After three years at Sauber, Heidfeld moved to Jaguar in 2004, but an unreliable car saw him score just three points. The following season he moved to Williams to partner Mark Webber. He finished second in Monaco, and followed that up with a pole position in front of his home fans at the Nurburgring, although he failed to capitalise and ended the race second. After a promising series of results, Heidfeld was injured in a testing accident and was forced to sit out the Italian and Belgian Grand Prix, replaced by Antonio Pizzonia. Then, while recovering at home, Heidfeld was knocked off his bicycle by a motorbike, and he was forced to miss the rest of the season.
Despite missing the final five races of the 2005 season, Heidfeld's performances had merited a seat at the new BMW Sauber team, where he was reunited with Peter Sauber. In four years at BMW Sauber Heidfeld scored 147 points, and made the podium eight times. His best season was in 2007 when he finished in the points in all but three races, to secure fifth place in the drivers' championship behind the two Ferraris and two McLarens.
When BMW announced they were withdrawing from F1 after the end of the 2009 season, both Heidfeld and the Sauber team faced an uncertain future, amplified by disappointing results on track. In the first 11 races of the season, Heidfeld scored just six points. Improved results in the late-season surge saw him pick up another 13 points, but fifth in Belgium and Abu Dhabi was the best he could manage.
In 2010 he was drafted into the Sauber team for the last five races and then released at the end of the year. His time in F1 seemed to be over but he was brought back when Robert Kubica injured himself and Renault turned to him to fill the vacancy. A competitive car soon dropped off the pace, however, and Heidfeld was replaced by Bruno Senna after 11 races as the team looked for fresh impetus from its drivers.
Strengths and Weaknesses
"Mr Reliable" has an uncanny ability to get points from under-performing cars. However, despite the nickname, Quick Nick, Heidfeld lacks the killer instinct to finish on the podium on a regular basis.
After finishing second at the 2005 Monaco Grand Prix, Heidfeld secured pole position in front of his home crowd at the Nurburgring for Williams. He finished the race second behind eventual champion Fernando Alonso.
Missing the final five races of an otherwise impressive season in 2005, although he still finished the season eleventh in the championship.
"I still want to be world champion, even if it only happens when I am 40. If you look at the past few years, drivers are staying until they are 38, 39, so I have a few years still in front of me."
"He is the most under rated driver in Formula One." McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh.
Despite having a reputation on track of being reliable and steady, away from the paddock Heidfeld is known to be a party animal, saving his best moves for the dance floor.
Jo Carter November 2009