Nick Heidfeld enjoyed a solid start to his F1 return, finishing 13th in both of Friday's practice sessions, a whisker behind his rookie team-mate Kamui Kobayashi. Heidfeld, who has been both Mercedes reserve driver and test driver for Pirelli this season, has returned to Sauber in place of Pedro de la Rosa for the last 5 races of the year.
In light of the fact he has not driven Sauber's 2010 charger, he was pleased with his efforts. “Given it was my first day back in the team and also in the 2010 car I'm very happy” he said. “I enjoyed driving a lot. At the beginning it was a bit difficult because the track was wet. I just took it easy and tried to do as many laps as possible. For the second session we changed a few things, but it is clear two sessions are not enough to analyse everything.” Peter Sauber has stated that one of the prime motivators for hiring Heidfeld was so he could use his experience to gauge the performance of the car.
Heidfeld at least has the advantage of knowing the Singapore circuit after his visits there for BMW. This weekend is Kobayashi's first experience of the challenging circuit. Even so, the Japanese driver was satisfied with his performance. “I like the track, and turn five especially is a nice and fast corner” he said. “The bumps are not too bad and didn't come as a surprise to me. I found it difficult to reach the limit. I made a few mistakes, but I didn't hit anything. We managed to improve the set-up a bit between the sessions, but we still have to find a better balance.”
James Key, the team's technical director, reiterated the challenge the team faced with both drivers. “Our work was cut out today compared to normal Fridays, because for Kamui it was about first learning the track and for Nick driving for the first time with the new car and current tyres” he said. However, he is positive the team can improve. “Between the sessions we had a good look at the data and the second session was okay. We are midfield at the moment and are working to improve from there”.
Sauber currently sit 8th in the constructor's championship, twenty points behind Williams.