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.”

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?