Heidfeld goes legal

Nick Heidfeld has applied to the High Court in London to stop Lotus Renault GP from putting Bruno Senna into the team. There will be a hearing on September 19 but until then Heidfeld will be replaced by Bruno Senna. Heidfeld argues that he should not be replaced on the basis of performance because he has 34 points and his team-mate Vitaly Petrov has 32. This is an interesting argument in that Heidfeld has 10 years (and two half-seasons) and 183 starts compared to Petrov’s 18 months and 30 starts. Renault is expected to argue that comparisons with Petrov are not relevant as Heidfeld was hired to replace Robert Kubica, who regularly outperformed Petrov and was expected to do the same this year, but was unable to take part because of a rallying accident in February.

Heidfeld says that he believes that his contract should be respected.

42 thoughts on “Heidfeld goes legal

  1. Well yes, if he has a contract Renault should respect it. Can’t see him losing to be honest. He’s done well, Renault haven’t exactly given him a car to set the world alight
    From the outside it looks like its Renault trying to cash in on the Senna name.

  2. As always it depends entirely upon the wording of the contract.

    Heidfeld could be forgiven for drawing comparisons with being a driver for Colin Chapman, a dodgy car that frequently bursts into flames and an uncertain future, oh and he must take the blame for the car being crap as well.

  3. I’d imagine he’s pushing for compensation by claiming the contract has been broken, rather than trying to get his drive back.

  4. What a joke. I understand contractual obligations and all but this is F1 and I would say he will never get a drive again. Maybe not at any level, if I was a team Principle in any form of motor sport I would not hire a driver that would do this to the team. In any and all forms of motor sport, the team comes first.

  5. Another example of how messy some F1 teams/principals treat their driver contracts, I think.

    Personally, I think the team might have wanted more from Heidfeld. And I think there was a bit more to be gained from the car. But they got what they should have expected. Solid development work and mostly bringing the car home, being just that tad better than his team mate as well.

    Respect for Heidfeld for turning up like that in the paddock to show all is not well, and the team probably did not do too good a job of settling matters with him.

  6. Lotus Renault GP seem to like being taken to the High Court. Some other facts when both drivers have finished a race Nick is ahead 5-2 (the 1 race he was beaten being Australia where his car was missing its one side pod from the start of the race). Another stat – Vitaly is the fourth most overtaken driver this season so far…

    “the drivers who have been overtaken the most are: Heikki Kovalainen who has been passed 39 times, Timo Glock 34, Jarno Trulli 33, Petrov 32″

    Source: http://www.yallaf1.com/2011/08/10/webber-%E2%80%98king-of-the-overtakers%E2%80%99-so-far-in-2011/

    Given that Boullier’s negative comments about Nick started at the same time that Genii were starting doing their negotiations with Brazilian partners there could be real grounds for unfair dismissal and that the reason to dismiss Nick is based on getting more money rather than based on driving results. If this is the case, is it fair to dump a driver if a more lucrative offer comes from another driver in the middle of a contract? Is it also fair to criticise a driver as a prelude to dismissal – remember the team even blamed Nick for the last fire at Hungary – only to retract the accusation.

    Despite what I said above I think it is ill-advised to go the legal route and Nick needs to accept his F1 career is finally finished – I think he could be awesome in the Le Mans series – what about joining with Kimi in Peugeot’s 908 HDi ?

    So Joe you had a lot of negative things to say about Tonio and his contract with Force India – should teams be forced to keep driver contracts? Is this an issue that could get the FIA involved in?

  7. Mildly Quick Nick needs to move on with grace to the DTM after his long and largely unfulfilled F1 career; time to let someone else have a go…

  8. How can you go back to a team after you’ve taken them to court though? Surely the working relationship would be ruined?

  9. Smells more financially motivated than performance to me, we’ll see if the car has any new stickers this weekend.

    Either way Heidfeld really hasnt done enough, and since hes not going to bring money to the team a drive for anyone behind Renault on the grid is highly unlikely. Guess his time in F1 is at an end.

  10. Fascinating story… Not for Heidfeld being dropped by LRGP indeed but about the true meaning of “having a F1 driver’s contract”… I have no clue about this kind of contract but I hardly believe that a driver can drive a car when the owner of the car doesn’t want this to happen… Maybe the driver can make a lot of money because it is undoubtly a breach of contract but who -or what- can oblige a team to let a driver drive if the team refuses…. I remember a lot of discussions with my friend when Kimi was fired by Ferrari on, more or less, the same topic. My opinion is that Nick is going for the money, he has no chance of driving again on the basis of a Court’s injunction.

  11. There was a lot of expectation towards Heidfeld this season, particularly with his Pirelli experience, (Did he help develop these new artificial rubber racing tyres?)

    For some reason it’s not happening, although i rate him as a racer.
    Nobody knows how Petrov would have performed in this years car…

  12. Does this mean Renault is not paying Heidfeld anymore? Or does he really feel he needs to drive? I would guess that this sort of lawsuit could ruin his relationship with the team and he’s almost guaranteed he won’t drive for Renault again.

  13. If Heidfeld was sacked because his performance wasn’t good enough for Renault, why are they replacing him with….. Bruno Senna?!

    Apropos of nothing, the film “Senna” is about to go on limited release here in the USA.

    (I’m not a Heidfeld fan, I think he’s a dull journeyman, but c’mon).

  14. What kind of contract did Renault give Heidfeld in order to allow him to be able to take this action! Nick was only ever drafted in as a seat warmer until Robert was well enough to drive. Nick in his heart of hearts must know this! What if Robert was infact well enough, and it was him who was replacing Nick this weekend? Would Nick take legal action then? My point is 1. Why is Nick acting like this is HIS seat? It’s not, it’s Robert’s, it has always been Robert’s. 2. What were Renault thinking putting a contract in front of Nick that sounds like it was something along the lines of a one-year deal? Like I said, what if Robert was well enough to drive by now? Then what?

    Sorry Nick, despite having 2 more points you have been outshone by Petrov in almost every way this year, you bring no cash to a team who badly needs it – ergo you are of no benifit at all – live with it. Senna brings dollars and although may not bring in the points straight away, he will likely be matching Petrov within a few GPs. Much better value!

  15. I look forward to Nick filling in for injured/ill/underperforming F1 drivers mid-season in perpetuity. Because if it’s between him and de la Rosa, well,…

  16. Would Kubica have been replaced by Senna if he had 34 points to Petrov’s 32? I doubt it.

    Why can’t Renault just admit that the car is not any good?

  17. Heidfeld’s contract should be respected. He has more points despite the fact that twice he retired with car failures. When he was teammate with Kubica he compared very well. As Joe has pointed out frequently, Renault has been losing staff and the development of their car has not kept pace with their rivals. Renault are frustrated and he is their scapegoat. Renault also needs money and Senna appears to have Brazilian sponsors. They are a rapidly devolving team. Sad.

  18. You can always honor a contract doesn’t mean he has to race, but frankly Nick should move on it isn’t ever going to happen for him and he sounds like he is throwing a tantrum now. The team might be not be handling this great in whats happened but life’s like that in the real world people get sacked fair or not.

    1. ginerchris,

      Because the Contract Recognition Board takes months. It will make a ruling based on very basic facts provided without opening the contract, but it does not have access to the full contracts until the body meets, which takes time, particularly at the end of the summer.

  19. Wow, I didn’t realise it had turned that sour. Can’t see much point in going to court, if the team doesn’t want you there, the team doesn’t want you there, even if he won, it isn’t exactly going to be a best working enviroment

  20. Not one of his smarter moves. I do not think a teamboss will let him drive a car after this. Accept the loss and focus on a drive next year either F1 or DTM

  21. At the end of the day the question is ‘would you really want to drive for a team that didn’t want you there, a team that you were only driving for because of winning a legal fight?’

    I think it also says a lot about a persons lack of character if they could answer yes to such a question.

  22. Hey Joe,

    According to Finland’s Turun Sanomat, Team Lotus and Group Lotus came to an agreement which will result in renaming TL to Team Caterham Air Aisia next season and removing any CABC logos from TL starting from Monza. Can I have your comment please?

    Best regards,

  23. “Maybe the car is good and Kubica would have scored 100 points. How can you know?”

    The only possible comparison is to examine Vitaly’s performance in the two seasons accepting the variable that he has improved from last season to this. This is flawed as the car started off strongly this season but seems to have not to have kept pace with the other teams. Hungary was one of the few places Vitaly had prior knowledge last season and actually qualified 7th and ahead of Robert. This year he could not qualify in the top 10 – so I think it is fair to argue that the car is currently not as strong as at the same time last season. Given the exodus of staff at Lotus Renault without apparent replacements this would also suggest less capacity to develop a car.

    In 209 BMW Sauber had a poor car a the start and other than two races Robert’s performance was fairly mediocre (overall he scored less points than Nick) so Robert might have had this sort of season had he not been injured.

    I think Vitaly is not doing a bad job as I think the car is currently not performing very well – I think Sauber and Force India are rather better and I am hoping they catch up to Lotus Reanult.

    Also note that Nick is lying eighth the same position Robert finished the season.

    Nick (or Nick’s manager’s) efforts to get the seat back are futile so I think it will revolve around adequate compensation. Bourdais took this route to get a better severance deal from STR. I feel sorry for Nick but at the same time he was not going to get a seat next year so it has simply brought forward the inevitable outcome.

  24. From the articles I have read it seems he’s not actually been sacked, just replaced as the driver. Ergo he’s still getting paid and still part of the team(hence being at Spa) . Surely any team has the right to swap their drivers round as they see fit. Can you imagine if footballers went to court whenever they got benched.

  25. Garry T

    Not everyone’s as as meek and as accomodating as you Gary!

    After the very public verbal bashing that Nick has had from Bouiller, I’m not suprised (If) and there is nothing confirmed yet, that Nick is taking legal action, infact I think he has kept a very dignified professional silence since the Renault started going backwards quicker than a clown on a uni cycle or was that Bouiller on his bike?
    Renault are not going well, and come to think of it nor are Williams but do you hear Frankie and Pat giving thier drivers curry to the media???

    Renault are playing the game by coveting money from Senna, and using Nicks results as a reason to get rid of him.
    Simple equation: If it’s not about the Money, Nick has More points than Petrov, qualifying is a non issue if the driver brings home more points. And as someone pointed out, when both drivers finish it’s 5-2 to Heidfeld.

    It’s a ruthless sport and I’m Sure Nicks been around long enough not to get heartbroken.

  26. Can’t say I feel bad for Heidfeld. There has to be a reason always gets the short end of the stick. I guess Renault is essentially ceding p4 in the WCC to Mercedes and testing out their pool of drivers in case Kubica isn’t able to drive next year.

  27. Well Heidfeld didn’t mind taking Pedro de la Rosa’s drive last year and subsequently breaking his contract, so I think it’s a bit rich that he expects to have it both ways.

  28. Time to go Heidfeld, you had plenty of opportunities and races. Reliable maybe, but average driver at best. Give way to new blood, please.

  29. The Renault ‘spin’ seems to be in a constant state of flux. When this story first broke the excuse was that they needed to ‘up their game’ to fight for position in the Manufacturer’s championship. Now it’s ‘Nick didn’t deliver’ either results (despite more points than his team mate) or ‘leadership’ and there is talk of a ‘negative loop’ in the team which needed breaking. This seems to boil down to ‘Nick is not Robert Kubica’ and the management is incapable of providing leadership. How utterly naive. Of course Nick is not Robert, otherwise he wouldn’t have been available at such short notice. He was the best available and has done a good job – much better than Bruno Senna will do so exit any hope of improving championship position. Renault GP has been haemorrhaging talent all year and it is now becoming increasingly clear just how poor the management is.

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