2009 Preview: BMW Sauber

P90044828-zoomBMW have met their targets in 2007-08 with methodical and clinical-like precision, taking their maiden win ahead of schedule in Canada last year. For 2009, nothing but the title will do for the Hinwil outfit. But does a team who got it so wrong with their driver objectives towards the end of last year really have the strategic capability to topple McLaren and Ferrari?

By Dan Barnes

This year’s sweeping rule changes offer all the teams something a blank canvass. BMW are probably best prepared of all the teams in this respect. After Robert Kubica s maiden win in Canada last year, BMW Sauber deemed their season a success: “The one-two in Canada and 11 podium finishes set an exacting standard. In 2009 we are looking to maintain our first class reliability record while also enhancing our performance levels so that we can be at the front of the pack on a consistent basis.”

Shifting resources

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The win in Canada allowed the team to switch development to the F1.09 at the expense of the F1.08, not to mention Robert Kubica’s title hopes. In contrast Ferrari and McLaren concentrated on their 2008 title efforts by developing their 2008 cars. Meanwhile, BMW threw all their resources at 2009. Logically, this should give BMW Sauber an early advantage, whether it is enough to actually pull out a lead over McLaren and Ferrari is another matter.

Indeed, despite the team’s early preparation Mario Thiessen is still weary of Ferrari and McLaren s experience: “Ferrari and McLaren possess vast reserves of experience and have been operating at the top level for many years. That is what our team is trying to emulate,” he said.

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In winter testing in Jerez BMW were the first team to run KERS, spectacularly electrocuting one of their engineers and causing his hospitalisation. BMW were also the first team to run a simulated 2009 aero package featuring a 2009-spec front wing in pre-season testing – fruition it seems of BMW s early switch to the demands of 2009.

Confidence in KERS

Towards the end of 2008 the Formula One teams led a push to delay the introduction of KERS to 2010. BMW Sauber were the only team to vote against the motion, thereby vetoing a delay in KERS. It was a demonstration that BMW has significantly more confidence in their KERS technology than the rest of the grid. Although KERS is just a third of the rule changes it s benefits could reap reward for BMW.

McLaren-Ferrari Threat

The only apparent problem BMW might face throughout 2009 is being out-developed by Ferrari and McLaren. Despite an emphatic start to 2008 where BMW showed in Malaysia and Bahrain to be on pace with McLaren they were soon out-developed by McLaren and were left in no mans land, way ahead of the midfield but not quick enough to challenge for the wins on outright pace. Instead BMW were opportunistic and reliable turning McLaren and Ferrari blunders to their advantage.

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In 2009 BMW want to consistently challenge for wins and the title on merit. If the pre-season build up is anything to go by, they are well-placed to do so. But the team’s methodical approach under the watchful eye of Mario Thiessen will not allow them to get carried away. progressive targets are still the order of the day.