Do we? There’s a difference between liking him, as most of us do, and rating him highly.
I suppose it depends what you mean by highly. You’ll not find many people who will see him as one of the Top 3 or 4 drivers in the sport. But, I think a lot of us will consider him worthy of a place in F1, and as one of the best drivers never to win a GP.
I rank Heidfeld as about as good a driver as David Coulthard, but without any of his luck. With the right break, it could’ve been Heidfeld driving for McLaren, taking occasional wins and podiums without ever looking like winning the title. But, in reality, DC overachieved with 13 wins, and Heidfeld has underachieved with a big fat 0. That just doesn’t seem fair.
Oh, and I like the beard too