BMW were Formula 1’s third-best team in 2007: an excellent achievement given they only took over the Sauber team two years ago.
Their challenge for 2008 is to reduce the gap to the leading teams, McLaren and Ferrari, It’s a big ask, and early in winter testing it looked as though they’d actually taken a step backwards. But in the later tests it appeared they’d finally unlocked the potential of the F1.08 and were able to talk convincingly about getting closer to the Big Two. Mario Theissen said:
For 2008 we have set ourselves the target of closing the gap to the leading teams. In addition we intend scoring our first Grand Prix victory.
Nick Heidfeld versus Robert Kubica
BMW have not yet gone down the route of trying to bag a star driver. Team boss Mario Theissen clearly has a lot of faith in Heidfeld and Kubica. He bagged Heidfeld from Williams when BMW were supplying engines to them, and nicked Kubica from under Flavio Briatore’s nose.
When Kubica arrived on the scene late in 2006 and grabbed a podium at his third race start everyeon thought he would blow Heidfeld away in 2007. But Kubica struggled with the change in tyres last year, and then had his huge shunt at Montreal, while Heidfeld just kept on scoring points.
But I think it’s Kubica that has greater potential – it was he who wriggled the BMW into a race-winning position at Shanghai, before that cruel and rare failure robbed him of a potential victory. He relishes street circuits, so keep an eye on him at Valencia and Singapore.
F1.08 – efficient dynamics
BMW’s slogan for its more environmentally-friendly road cars is ‘efficient dynamics’ – the same tag might be applied to the F1.08 with its radical aerodynamic package aimed at increasing downforce and stability while limiting drag.
The team invested heavily in computing power to run Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) testing, and the product of that is a car with very sophisticated surfaces.
The airbox-mounted ‘viking wings’ are back along with a similar device muounted half down the front nose. The wings in front of the sidepod are similarly intricate and quite unlikely anything on their rivals’ cars, and an additional wing behind the chimneys dubbed the ‘heck’ wing adds more downforce.
Another innovation is the front wheel fairings which extend beyond the wheel rim with the apparent aim of channelling air flow at the front of the car. (See Comparing the F1 cars of 2008 for more.)
Kubica has said the car is quicker, but harder to drive:
There are a couple of things that have been improved a lot but there are some issues still that I think will not be easy to fix, but of course the car is performing better. I think half the problem is gone but the other half is there, and we cannot fix it quickly, so we are trying to balance the car as is.
It is not easy to balance, in the windy conditions I think last year’s car was easier to drive and set up than this year’s car.
Added together numerous small changes may trim vital tenths from lap times. It may not be enough to bring Williams and McLaren within range just yet, but on one of those unpredictable days BMW might just make it to the top step of the podium.
More about BMW
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