Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Nick Heidfeld - classic F1 2011

Renault's Nick Heidfeld is the latest driver to choose his five favourite all-time grands prix for our new-look classic Formula 1 series.

For those unfamiliar with the format, BBC Sport has asked all the F1 drivers to select their five favourite races and we are serialising their choices before every race this season to whet your appetites for the action to come. Highlights will be shown on this website and the red button on BBC television in the UK.

So far, we have had world champion Sebastian Vettel, F1 legend Michael Schumacher, Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi, Williams veteran Rubens Barrichello and, for his home grand prix in Spain last weekend, double champion Fernando Alonso.

Ahead of this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix, we have the man who is standing in this season for Robert Kubica, who was injured in a rally crash in February and who will be watching the race from his apartment in the principality.

Heidfeld, a 34-year-old German, is one of the most experienced drivers on the grid and his selection is an interesting mix of races from his career and before his time in F1.

In chronological order, they are as follows:

The 1988 Monaco Grand Prix, which Heidfeld says he has chosen as it was the first F1 race he attended. Most people, though, remember it as one of the defining moments in the career of Ayrton Senna, who dominated the weekend in his McLaren until crashing out of the lead with a handful of laps remaining, handing victory to his team-mate Alain Prost.

Heidfeld's second pick is the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix, which Heidfeld calls a "classic F1 moment", and which is proving popular among the current drivers - both Alonso and Buemi also chose this race.

It was also a key event in the careers of Senna and Prost. As many will recall, Senna drove into the back of his arch-rival, who was now at Ferrari, at the first corner at 160mph.

Senna's actions were in revenge for pole position, which he had won, being moved to the 'wrong' side of the track - which he felt was part of a conspiracy against him by then-FIA president Jean-Marie Balestre against him.

Next is the 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix. This was Heidfeld's first appearance on an F1 podium, and came at the end of a thrilling grand prix famous for two stunning overtaking manoeuvres on Ferrari's Michael Schumacher by Juan Pablo Montoya, who should have won the race in his Williams, and McLaren's David Coulthard, who did.

It was an incident-packed race throughout and one in which Heidfeld's sure touch in changing conditions - a feature of his career - was in evidence.

The 2001 US Grand Prix was won brilliantly by Mika Hakkinen, who was to retire following the next race, the season finale in Japan, after winning a tactical battle with team-mate Coulthard and the Ferraris of Schumacher and Barrichello.

It was a fascinating race, typical of F1's refuelling era, but that is not why Heidfeld has chosen it. The event has special memories for him because he finished sixth, scoring points for Sauber, despite the lack of first, second and seventh gears. This race was broadcast during the era when ITV had the rights to F1 in the UK, and unfortunately technical problems mean we cannot broadcast highlights for you.

Finally, Heidfeld has chosen Brazil 2008, not because of anything special he did (he finished 10th for BMW Sauber), but because of its famous finish that saw McLaren's Lewis Hamilton regaining the fifth place he needed to win the title from Ferrari's Felipe Massa, who won the race, on the last corner of the last lap.

As always, we pick one race to highlight to help whet your appetites for the action at the forthcoming grand prix.

Heidfeld has made five excellent choices, but as Monaco is the next race, we have plumped for that event in 1988.

It is worth a bit of back story. Senna was on pole by an astonishing 1.4 seconds from Prost - and was later famously to talk about having what felt like an out-of-body experience while he went faster and faster around the principality.

The Brazilian's utter domination continued in the race, helped by Prost being beaten away from the start by the slower Ferrari of Gerhard Berger.

The Frenchman finally got past on lap 54, by which time Senna had a 46-second lead and was totally in control. But this was only the third race of the 1988 season, for which the Brazilian had joined McLaren, where his main aim was to establish himself as better than Prost, then regarded as the finest driver in the world.

The result was a battle of wills, for pride, between the two finest drivers of their generation - and two of the greatest ever. And in Monaco, this was to lead to Senna's downfall.

Free of Berger, Prost started trading fastest laps with Senna. McLaren boss Ron Dennis, concerned that the team might lose a one-two, assured Senna his lead was safe and he backed off.

But when Prost then gained six seconds in one lap on his team-mate, Senna responded by setting two fastest laps - and then crashed at Portier after losing concentration.

Shell-shocked, and in tears, he returned to his nearby apartment, refusing to speak to his team or answer calls. It was the first of many twists in a drama that was to grip sporting fans the world over for the next five years.

The full 'Grand Prix' programme broadcast that evening on the BBC is embedded below, with links below it to shorter highlights and long and short highlights of Mark Webber's dominant win for Red Bull in Monaco in 2010.

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A selection of classic races will be shown on the BBC red button on satellite and cable digital television in the UK from 1500 BST on Wednesday 25 May until 1030 BST on Friday 27 May. The races selected are extended highlights of Monaco 1988, short highlights of Brazill 2001 and Brazil 2008 and extended highlights of Monaco 2010.

Unfortunately, because of a lack of bandwidth caused by our coverage of the French Open tennis, we are unable to broadcast these highlights on Freeview.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/andrewbenson/2011/05/nick_heidfeld_-_classic_f1_201.html

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