Nick Heidfeld came through his audition to replace the injured Robert Kubica with flying colours on Day 3 of the pre-season test in Jerez as he topped the timesheets for Lotus Renault.
The time of 1:20.361 was over a tenth of a second faster than that managed by second-place man Fernando Alonso and should go some way to convincing Renault that Heidfeld is the man to replace Kubica.
“Today we had the chance to give Nick time in the car and we carried out a big evaluation,” said team principal Eric Boullier. “Our first feelings are very positive: he worked well with the team, gave good feedback and improved the car during the day. We managed to cover 86 laps and the times are encouraging, which is also thanks to Robert and Vitaly's early feedback and the hard work of everybody in the team.”
Heidfeld was very positive after his day in the R31, but did play down the importance of his laptime. “I really enjoyed the day,” said the German. “It was fun driving the car, although it obviously takes time to get used to things when it's your first time in a car and working with a new team.
“We had a good day, without too many problems, and luckily all the changes we made to the car went in the right direction and improved things, so I was able to push harder and harder. In terms of the lap times, it's very difficult for me to compare with the other teams because we don't know the fuel levels or what the others were doing.
“My first impressions of the car were positive, although there are always areas where you can improve.”
For the fourth and final day of the Jerez test, test and reserve driver Bruno Senna will be in the car. The Brazilian will be hoping to impress his bosses as he is also being considered as Kubica’s replacement.
Kubica had further surgery on Saturday at the Santa Corona hospital in Italy. Dr. Francesco Lanza from the Orthopaedic Department confirmed that the four operations – on the Pole’s foot, shoulder, humorous and foot – had gone well. The final surgery is planned for next week to treat the posterior part of the elbow.
Much of the concern in the week after Kubica’s accident has been over the state of his right hand. Dr. Rosello provided an update: “Robert's hand is in optimal condition and has not suffered any further trauma after such complex surgery. His hand remains well vascularised and warm.”