F1 2007 Preview: BMW

BMW launch 2007Everything I read about BMW’s 2007 season rotates around the same hang-up. Apparently they are doomed to suffer ‘second album syndrome’, where a team that impresses in their first season struggles in the next.

Case studies: Stewart, 1998; Prost, 1998; Jordan, 1992 and so on.

But this cuts no ice with me. BMW are no cheeky young upstarts. The Sauber team they took over were in F1 from 1993, and BMW themselves had been supplying engines to Williams since 2000.

I can’t see them suffering second-season blues – and the speed of their F1.07 car in testing already seems to be backing that up.

Nick Heidfeld, BMW, Valencia, preseason, 3While the other top teams are swept up in a maelstrom of change, cool, effective BMW seem to be making all the right moves.

Mario Theissen has already proved he has the required single-mindedness to take this team to the top:

Williams not co-operating? Dumped. Inherited former champion Jacques Villeneuve not producing the goods? Dropped. Flavio Briatore hesitating over Robert Kubica? Poach the rookie Finn right out from under Flav’s nose.

Johnny Herbert, Sauber Petronas, Buenos Aires, 1996In Sauber, BMW really did find the perfect partner. Handily located in nearby (to Munich) Hinwii, resplete with a shiny new state-of-the-art wind tunnel. Thankyou very much, deal done, BMW scored podiums in their first season.

Putting them well ahead of schedule, for scoring a top three finish was supposed to be their target for this season. It still is, but they’ll want a few more – and score them on days when the cream of the crop don’t drop out, as when Nick Heidfeld was third at the Hungaroring last year.

The driver situation at BMW is fascinating. Heidfeld was nabbed from Williams because he fit the BMW mould perfectly. The sparkling Kubica was scooped from Renaut while they dithered and installed in place of Villeneuve.

Sebastian Vettel, BMW, Preseason, 2007But Theissen also has a young star in the Lewis Hamilton mould (albeit with Ronnie Peterson circa 1975 hair) Sebastian Vettel, who intriguingly will get a shot in the Friday test sessions this year. ‘Intriguingly’ because under the new 2007 rules it will have to come at the expense of one of the two race drivers – and neither of them are happy about it.

What exactly is Theissen up to? It can only unsettle the drivers and work against their race weekend preparation with testing time more restricted than ever.

He surely can’t be waiting to parachute Vettel in as he did with Kubica. So is he planning a BMW B-team?

In addition to Vettel the increasingly impressive Timo Glock (who made a handful of starts for Jordan in 2004) will also test, in between bidding to win the GP2 championship.

Nick Heidfeld, BMW, Valencia, preseason, 4Having more driver talent than seats can only be healthy for a team and they may always loan Vettel out elsewhere. The priority for now is the F1.07.

With a chassis honed by one of the best windtunnels in the sport and BMW’s astonishing new Computational Fluid Dynamic facility, and powered by one of the best engines in the sport, this doesn’t look anything at all like being a ‘difficult second season’ for BMW

No, not at all – a first victory could well be on the cards.

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