Nick Heidfeld has had his final fast lap compromised by other drivers on the track during the third phase of qualifying for tomorrow’s Malaysian Grand Prix. As the rest of the field had set their hot laps earlier in the session, Nick Heidfeld started his final run just as the others went into fuel-save mode. The result meant Heidfeld was forced to dangerously weave around the other competitors who remained on the racing line.
The fact that Heidfeld had to move off-line to pass and weave in and out should mean that those offending drivers be hauled up in front of the stewards and penalised. Among those who remained on the racing line was fourth placed driver Lewis Hamilton and third placed driver and team mate Heikki Kovalainen.
The issue came about because the cars go into the third phase of qualifying with race-fuel levels, and as soon as each driver completes his fast lap he backs off to conserve as much fuel as possible. This allows for a longer first stint in the race and saves time on pitstops because less fuel has to be pumped into the car.
But this race-fuel system has now been shown to actually cause unnecessary danger to other drivers as well as adding an extra complexity to the proceedings that isn’t needed. Nick Heidfeld was at full tilt and at one point it is clear from the TV cameras the German was forced off-line to pass two cars before struggling to get back on to the racing line before the corner.
Nick Heidfeld qualified seventh for tomorrow’s race, one second off Felipe Massa’s pace. Importantly though, Nick is only 0.15s shy of Kovalainen in third, such is the close competitiveness of this group at the moment.