Past Sauber driver Heidfeld laments its ongoing driver contract drama

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MIAMI – Nick Heidfeld will be seeking to break out of a tough four-race period to open the FIA Formula E Championship this weekend in Miami with Venturi.

But the German has kept an eye on what’s happening on the other side of the world, as the team with which Heidfeld spent the majority of his Formula 1 career, Sauber, is embroiled in the driver contract saga involving three drivers and two race seats.

The 1999 F3000 champion raced for Sauber three different times. He was full-time from 2001 to 2003 as Sauber, returned in 2006 when BMW took over the team as BMW Sauber through 2009, and took over for the final five races of the 2010 season when BMW departed, but Sauber retained its place on the grid.

Heidfeld said he understands both sides of the argument, but explained that drivers need to be treated correctly.

“Yeah I followed it the last couple days, because unfortunately it’s been the most exciting part of Formula 1 the last couple days although it’s a new season coming,” Heidfeld only half-jokingly told MotorSportsTalk ahead of this weekend’s Miami ePrix.

“I’m still quite attached to Sauber, as I spent the majority of my F1 career there.

“But on the other side you cannot have four or five (drivers), or let’s say you cannot have more than two contracts with drivers to do the season. I also have to think from the driver’s perspective, and sometimes drivers are not treated the way they should be.”

Giedo van der Garde, who was Sauber’s reserve driver last year, has won his legal case to be able to drive in this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix. But without an FIA Superlicense, he lacks the correct credentials to do so (more here from my MotorSportsTalk colleague Luke Smith).

As for his day job, Heidfeld is set for the reminder of the FE season with Venturi, and looks to dovetail that with selected sports car races. He did not confirm a team in sports cars; he has raced the last three seasons full-time with Rebellion Racing.

Heading into this weekend, he dismissed his tough starta near miss-win at China and a disqualification at Malaysia got things off to a rough start – and seeks a better weekend on the streets of Miami.

“Firstly I always like to think of things not in terms of bad luck, but then analyze things and see how I can improve and not get stuck in a bad situation,” Heidfeld said. “Sometimes you come to the conclusion where you cannot change anything. It’s not easy.

“The main thing is to focus on the next important thing, not the past, but the future. You have to do the best at the next race and not get your mind changed too much. I don’t like to think about bad luck. My normal approach I learned over the years is to keep calm and try improving.”

Here are the starting times for 2020 NTT IndyCar Series action on NBC and NBCSN

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Another important tidbit for NTT IndyCar Series fans is out as INDYCAR and NBC announced starting times for the 2020 season. The full television schedule is also included.

There are different starting times at four races in 2020 from 2019. Those include the March 15 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the AutoNation INDYCAR Challenge at Circuit of the Americas on April 26, a later starting time for the Saturday night race at Iowa Speedway on July 18 on NBCSN

INDYCAR released the green flag times today for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season that features starting time shifts at four races – St. Petersburg, Circuit of The Americas, Iowa and Mid-Ohio – and the anticipated evening return to Richmond Raceway.

Those four returning races represent the only significant green flag start time changes from a year ago in the 17-race 2020 NTT IndyCar Series schedule, beginning with the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg scheduled for Sunday, March 15.

The August 16 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio will be moved to an earlier starting time and will be broadcast on NBC. Previously, the race was scheduled for 4:05 p.m., but has been changed to a 12:45 p.m. Eastern Time green flag.

INDYCAR’s return to Richmond Raceway on Saturday, June 27 will begin at 8:15 p.m. ET. That is the only new event on the schedule.

Detailed broadcast information for the entire season will be announced at a later date.

Here are the notable changes to the starting times on the schedule:

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which began at 1:40 p.m. ET this past season, will now have a 3:30 p.m. green flag. The race on the downtown streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., will be celebrating its 10thanniversary as the series’ season opener and be televised on NBC Sports Network.

The AutoNation INDYCAR Challenge at Circuit of The Americas on Sunday, April 26, will have a similar shift, moving from a 1:43 p.m. ET green flag this past season to 4:10 p.m. (3:10 p.m. local) in 2020. The permanent road course in Austin, Texas, will play host to the fourth race of the season and be broadcast on NBCSN.

The Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway, set for Saturday, July 18, on NBCSN, will be better accommodated for an evening race under the lights with the green flag moving from 7:15 p.m. ET to 9 p.m. (8 p.m. local).

“The return of a night race for INDYCAR at Iowa Speedway is exciting news for our race fans, sponsors, and the entire region,” Iowa Speedway President David Hyatt said. “The cars look great under the lights, and the competition should be even more fierce given what should be cooler conditions. Our track provides some of the best racing you’ll see anywhere, which will be good for attendance. This will be a can’t-miss weekend for all race fans.”

The return to a true night race at Iowa was the result of fans requesting it. The race will begin at 8:00 p.m. CT on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. And for fans and drivers, it is nostalgic, hearkening back to the first race many of them experienced … a night race on a short track.

The series hasn’t held a race that began after dusk at Iowa Speedway since 2015, and drivers and fans are welcoming it. Not only does it look more vibrant — and create sparks as cars bottom out — it also makes for better racing. Tires grip better when the track is cooler. Fans also avoid sweltering conditions during summer afternoons.

The Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Sunday, Aug. 16, will be the only race among the four that moves to an earlier start time. The race, which had a 4:05 p.m. ET start this past season, will shift to a 12:45 p.m. green flag in 2020 and be televised on NBC.

The NTT IndyCar Series heads to Richmond Raceway – the only new addition on the 2020 schedule – for the 11th race of the season on Saturday, June 27. The field will take the green flag at 8:15 ET for the start of the first Indy car race at the .75-mile oval since 2009. The race will be broadcast on NBCSN.