Last year Nick Heidfeld scored BMW’s best result of the season at Montreal – and 12 months on he badly needs a repeat of that form.
Heidfeld generally held the upper hand over his highly rated team mate Robert Kubica last year.
But Kubica has turned things around with a string of consistent points finishes and might even be leading the championship had he not been taken out of the Australian round by Kazuki Nakajima. Can Heidfeld get back on terms with his team mate this year?
As we all remember it was at Canada last year that Kubica survived the most shocking accident of the season. The way he shrugged off the battering he received and expressed disappointment at being kept from the subsequent round at Indianapolis by doctors as a precaution suggests he will not have any lingering hang-ups about returning to the circuit.
Heidfeld’s problems stem from difficulties in getting his tyres up to temperature for single lap runs in qualifying. At Monaco two weeks ago David Coulthard’s crash meant Heidfeld failed to reach Q3 for the first time this year.
Kubica has out-qualified him at every round and Heidfeld has finished behind his team mate in every race the pair have finished.
Starting further back in the field Heidfeld is inevitably more vulnerable to first-lap incidents and jostling for position. As a result he was squeezed wide at the start at Sepang and hit by Jenson Button at Monaco.
This has been exacerbated by BMW’s usual practice of putting Heidfeld on a heavier fuel strategy than his team mate. But is this the consequence or a cause of his problems in qualifying?
In other words, are BMW putting Heidfeld on heavier fuel strategies because they think it’s the best option for him. Or are they doing it because they realise he’s been having problems in qualifying and that the best they can expect is to get him in the bottom half of the top ten with a reasonably heavy fuel load?
We’ll keep an eye out for answers to these questions this weekend – and signs of any improvement from Heidfeld.