2008: BMW

Robert Kubica, BMW, Valencia, 2008 pre-season, pits

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

Robert Kubica, Nick Heidfeld, BMW F1.08 launch, 2008

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.

Nick Heidfeld biography
Robert Kubica biography

F1.08 – efficient dynamics

BMW F1.08 top down

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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9 comments on 2008: BMW

  1. Robert Mckay said on 7th March 2008, 13:06

    I could be talking nonsense here, but BMW are either going to be the stars of 2008 or the flops. I don’t quite see a repeat of 2007 where they are comfortably behind the big two but comfortably in front of the rest. They’re either going to mix it with Mclaren and Ferrari or get swamped by Williams, Renault and possibly Red Bull and Toyota too. Not sure which way it’s going to go.

  2. I agree with Robert – they’ll be right up there or have problems staying with Williams and RBR.  Just gotta hope they get it right…

  3. Golden Condor said on 7th March 2008, 13:44

    Hi Keith, I agree with your prediction in the final paragraph, although I personally expect Ferrari will also be challenging McLaren and Williams* this season.

    *hopefully :-)

  4. FLIG said on 7th March 2008, 14:46

    I know I always sound over-optimistic, but maybe all the crap the FIA has been pulling is going to come to fruition and the teams will get closer and closer in performance. Maybe this year BMW will get in trouble with Renault, Williams, Red Bull and Toyota (Remember the last two have a LOT of cash to get it right), but maybe that’s just because those teams are improving A LOT, not because BMW is falling back.

  5. theRoswellite said on 7th March 2008, 20:40

    A BMW side note:
    I certainly get tired of all the teams speaking about their problems in such a vague way.  After years of generalities one gets hungry for details, and I doubt the veracity of  the "party line" concerning the need for secrecy.  This is certainly true in some areas, but generally I think it does the discerning public a disservice. 

    What exactly was the problem with the new BMW?

  6. I’m not sure BMW itself knows for certain…

  7. Chris Johnson said on 7th March 2008, 23:17

    It’s great that BMW went aggressive with this car, but I just don’t see them closing the gap to McLaren and Ferrari this year. I hope I’m wrong because a tighter field is good for everyone, but I think Renault is more likely to win a race, and possibly Red Bull/Webber in a wet race. BMWs drivers aren’t that impressive, Heidfeld is steady, not spectacular. Kubica needs to regularly beat Nick to establish himself — he hasn’t done that yet. I’d say they’re one year and a top driver away from winning on merit, and by then we’ll have new rules.

  8. Karan said on 8th March 2008, 0:51

    Personally, as of now  I think the Ferrari and Mclaren have better machinery AND better pilots (not Massa though, I think he’s a mediocre driver in a great car), but Beemer has the potential and knowhow to really unlock their 2008 challenger about a third of the way into the season, and even though Heidfeld and Kubica aren’t stars, they’re certainly no slouches. If they sort out the balance gremlins, then I’m pretty certain they’ll be mixing it up with the top two.
    Right now, though, I think Rosberg and Alonso in their respective cars will be leading the beemers around Albert Park, Sepang, and Bahrain.

  9. Gman said on 9th March 2008, 0:29

    BMW is at a critical interesction- I agree that they will either go up or down this year. If they stay where they are, they run the risk of being overtaken by the improving teams many of you have mentioned. They have put together a good package to date, but now it’s time to challenge the top a bit more often.

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