The Belgium Grand Prix was a monumental occasion for Brazilian driver Bruno Senna. The Nephew of the late Ayrton Senna got his chance to shine in motor sports grandest stage for Lotus Renault GP and acquitted himself relatively well--first-corner kerfuffle withstanding. Relegated as a reserve driver in an era where there is very little, if any, "reserve driving" Senna replaced Veteran Nick Heidfeld for the weekend.
This week's announcement that the team and Heidfeld have parted ways is no real surprise amongst F1 fans and yet some wonder just what the future may hold for the 11-year veteran of Formula One.
The Lotus Renault GP teams official announcement came last Friday with team boss Eric Boullier saying:
"Our disagreement with Nick has been the subject of much media coverage lately, and we are pleased to have reached a swift and reasonable solution. Our separation process was already a painful one, and neither of us wanted to go through another legal hearing. We're very grateful to Nick for the highly valuable contribution he's made to the team. We certainly had good times together, in particular remembering our podium finish in Malaysia. He is a very strong and determined racer and we wish him every success in the future."
The disagreement was played out publicly with both Boullier and investment firm Genni Capital's Gerard Lopez, the majority owner of Lotus Renault GP, stating their dissatisfaction to several news agencies. Formula One has lost it's public spats and "character-revealing" moments over time and the public slating of Heidfeld was a terse reminder of just high the stakes are in a world of multi-million dollar budgets.
Some rumors persist that the team is short of cash to make up the needed budget to compete at the sharp end of the grid and that Senna may be attached to some much-needed sponsorship dollars. That is speculation and both Boullier and Lopez have denied the rumors.
In the end, this 11-year veteran of Formula One has amassed 13 podium positions and 259 points. Detractors of Heidfeld have him bereft of the skill to win in Formula One and yet there is another element that weighs upon the process of revenue distribution in the series--points totals by each team at the end of the year.
The more points a team has, it is suggested that the more revenue they receive from the commercial rights holders of F1. This has been the traditional understanding of the financial arrangement between Formula One Management boss Bernie Ecclestone and the teams.
If points are important, Heidfeld may not be a bad choice as that is the one thing he has excelled at--scoring points. This is something Bruno Senna failed to do in the Belgium Grand Prix.
The fact of the matter is that the team have lost faith in Heidfeld and once that has gone, irrespective of why, there is no getting it back. Most journalists and fans suspected a pay-off was coming to see Heidfeld to the door and it seems that may have happened as Heidfeld had lobbed a litigious grenade in the Lotus Renault GP camp with a British Court to hear the case in two-weeks time.
Nick Heidfeld said:
"Obviously I'm disappointed to be leaving Lotus Renault GP in the middle of the season. I thought I could still make a big contribution to the team, but I have to see things as they are and I want to turn my attention to the future. We have taken the right decision by choosing to end our collaboration today. I would like to wish all the friends I made at Enstone a successful end to the season. One thing is for sure - I'll be back racing at the highest level soon."
Will there be life after Lotus Renault GP for Heidfeld? That question remains to be seen but many have suggested that perhaps the German series DTM or even the Le Mans series could be an intriguing racing series for a man who drives smoothly and scores points.