Using the experience gained over a long and illustrious career, former Formula 1 driver Nick Heidfeld says that he will put his money on British racer Lewis Hamilton for clinching his third consecutive drivers' title in 2016.
Mercedes' Hamilton won the Formula 1 drivers' championship in 2014 and 2015 and looks strong for this year's championship too. German Heidfeld, who raced in F1 from 2000 to 2011, feels Hamilton is likely to win his fourth title but would like to see someone else give the Briton some competition.
"I would hope that we see some more teams doing well. We have not seen any testing yet. I would guess it will be Hamilton again taking the championship, but I would be happy if someone else does it for the sake of the sport, to make it more interesting," Heidfeld told IANS at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) in Greater Noida.
"Ferrari did very well last season. Now Renault are back and they should be more of a front-runner. I doubt if they would do fantastic in their first year but they have shown in the past by winning many championships; they would definitely be a contender. Also, if they move up on engine technology, we all know that Red Bull has always had one of the best chassis so they could be (up) there again."
It was not my choice to leave F1: Heidfeld
After a 12-year career at the pinnacle of motorsport, the German moved to sports car racing and currently takes part in the new Formula E Championship, driving for Mahindra Racing -- the only Indian team in the electric racing series.
"It was not my choice to leave F1. But the good thing afterwards was that I got to try a few other things out. I enjoyed going to Australia, doing V8 races there, doing the Porsche Supercup. I raced in sports cars like Le Mans. Le Mans is a big and fantastic event where I have to share the car with two other drivers and have to make compromises for setting up the car, which is exciting," said the 38-year-old.
"Then, in Formula E, I can focus more on my own driving style. It is a one-day event on Saturday which is extreme. It is not so difficult physically but mentally it is very tiring. But I enjoy it because it is completely different to Formula 1."
Currently, Formula E is in its second season. The electric racing series is held in various cities across the world in temporarily built street circuits.
The Switzerland resident, who holds the record for the most podium finishes in F1 (13) without a Grand Prix win, was on his first visit to India and said that his friends had warned him about a couple of things before visiting.
"Before coming here a lot of people warned me about the poverty and that it would be chaotic. I think I was warned a bit too much because I didn't see anything that was that extreme as I had imagined," said the father of three.
Will he try his luck at driving on Indian roads?
"The roads... Well, I find it more dangerous to drive in China than here. Compared to Europe, people don't follow the rules and in a one-way street, people just go in whatever direction they want. But somehow it is done in a certain way of harmony. People are honking, but they are not aggressive," said Heidfeld, who has had 185 F1 race entries for teams like Prost, Sauber, Jordan, Williams, BMW-Sauber and Renault.
"Everybody leaves each other some space and I don't find it dangerous or extreme for sure! There would be more accidents here, but with all the congestion on the roads, the cars are not going quickly!" concluded the German.
(Sandip Sikdar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)