BMW need double diffuser to put their 2009 campaign back on track in Turkey

BMW were nowhere at Monaco

BMW were nowhere at Monaco

BMW scored their first F1 win in the seventh round of 2008 in Canada.

But this year they look to the seventh race – the Turkish Grand Prix – with hopes of turning their season around after a disastrous start to a year that promised much.

Its F1.09 will finally have a double diffuser, over six weeks since the FIA ruled they were legal. Will this finally propel it into the ranks of the regular points scorers?

The team which lay third in the championship with 52 points after six races last year has scored just six so far in 2009 and lies eighth.

No-one will feel the pain of BMW’s struggled more acutely than Robert Kubica. He feels his chance at grabbing the 2008 championship was squandered by the team which diverted its energies to developing its 2009 car and helping Nick Heidfeld with his qualifying problems.

Kubica, the winner of last year’s Canadian Grand Prix, is yet to score this season. This despite him being in with a shout of winning the first race this year before his late collision with Sebastian Vettel.

This illustrates the slump BMW have fallen into. While other teams brought incremental updates to their cars in the opening races, the F1.09 stayed in roughly the same technical specification in those opening ‘flyaway races’. Here’s how they have performed so far:

Q/R Robert Kubica Nick Heidfeld
Australia 4/14 9/10
Malaysia 6/DNF 10/2
China 17/13 11/12
Bahrain 13/18 14/19
Spain 10/11 13/7
Monaco 17/DNF 16/11

As well as introducing their double diffuser this weekend, the team will also be dropping KERS, which it has used sporadically since the start of the season.

Kubica bemoaned the inflexibility that led BMW to committing to its 2009 plan last year even when the 2008 title was in the offing – and their lack of progress so far this year:

Situations like this are common in motor racing; you never know where you are going to be next year. That’s why I was disappointed last year when we did not seize our chance when we were very close to the front. In our team everything is always planned step by step. But sometimes you have to deviate from your plans.

It is remarkable how the team that in the last three years have been a model of rational, successful, gradual progress in F1 have gotten it so badly wrong.

Judging the situation optimistically, perhaps BMW suffered a similar lack of grip in slow corners that blighted Toyota at Monte-Carlo as well. A return to Istanbul, a much more typical F1 track, may suit their car better.

Do you think Monaco was a blip in BMW’s recovery? Or are they destined to spend 2009 scratching at the rear of the field? And will their drivers stick around? Have your say below…

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32 comments on BMW need double diffuser to put their 2009 campaign back on track in Turkey

  1. A Singh said on 4th June 2009, 12:40

    The people made their predictions in January, tipping Kubica for the title, must be a tiny bit embarrased right now.

    • Chris said on 4th June 2009, 12:52

      Not embarrassed, disappointed – yes there were bad signs coming from BMW, but for Kubica’s sake I still hoped it would be better than the dog it’s turning out to be. And the millennium it’s taken BMW to introduce the new double diffuser meant BMW lost even more in my eyes – it’s exactly the worst case scenario I was worried last year when they decided not to help Kubica in his championship tilt…

    • Brendyman said on 4th June 2009, 13:48

      Actually it’s Theissen and Rampf who should be embarassed. These two are the ones blindly following their great plan and the fact that previous years were quite successful has rendered them unable to deviate from it in any way. Also they have shown that from the very beginning of this season, they have been very overconfident, I mean even Force India has brought upgrades to every race so far while the allmighty and majestic BMW has been upgraded only at Barcelona (and even so, it did not go as ‘planned’), their management and development were unable to react to a significant ‘change in the rules’ (that’s what the FIA’s approval of the twin diffuser was for the protesting teams, BMW included), they were unable to react to a worse-than-expected performance etc. What BMW has proved throughout this season is that they are unable to deal with ANYTHING unless thye has planned for it earlier. I’m Polish, I hope that Robert gets as good a car as he can but as for BMW I want them to eat Force India’s dirt, with their corporate-like actions they do not deserve to be any higher than 19-20th .

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th June 2009, 20:30

      The people made their predictions in January, tipping Kubica for the title, must be a tiny bit embarrased right now.

      I did and, well, not quite embarrassed, but certainly disappointed!

      Everything about BMW’s progress up until the end of 2008 had been like clockwork, really. They had gotten better each year, and have two strong drivers who were pushing each other.

      And, as Brawn proved, the philosophy of cutting your 2008 programme to focus on 2009 was sound – though Brawn obviously got working on their car rather earlier than BMW.

      Still I’m stunned that BMW got it so badly wrong. And Kubica must be seething…

  2. PJA said on 4th June 2009, 12:55

    The biggest surprise for me this season, since we made those predictions before the first race, has been the form of BMW.

    From pre season testing we all knew McLaren had a bad car and that the Brawns were putting fast laps in, but I thought BMW would be challenging Ferrari for regular wins this year. Whereas Ferrari and McLaren have improved since the first race BMW have gone backwards.

    You can’t even blame the double diffusers for the lacklustre pace of last seasons top teams, as just look at how quick the Red Bulls are.

    Before the season the general consensus seemed to be that BMW had the best KERS after they vetoed delaying its introduction for a year, and yet they dropped it a few races ago while McLaren still use theirs.

  3. Mahir C said on 4th June 2009, 13:16

    From the pre season testing Toyota, BMW and Ferrari were expected to be more or less equal. That was the case in Australia but then BMW really went backward.

    I remember BBC saying BMW had the easiest job putting a double diffuser on the car, certainly it was easier than Red Bull or Ferrari. What happened?

  4. DGR-F1 said on 4th June 2009, 13:22

    And look at Red Bull’s disappointing race after they had upgraded to a DD. I hope BMW have learnt from that and will be competitive from now on.
    Otherwise, why are they there at all this year?

  5. Clay said on 4th June 2009, 13:32

    DGR – RBR’s ‘disappointing’ race in Monaco was at a track where slow speed performance using mechanical grip is the most important, not aero grip.

    Kubica has a good point. How often have we seen a team competitive one year and not the next? Jordan and Stewart in ’99, Renault in ’05 and ’06, Williams in ’01-03, McLaren in ’08, need I go on? BMW should have seized the moment last year, focussed on Kubica and probably would have gone closer than they did to the title.

    The bigger worry is how did BMW get it so wrong? RBR and Brawn did a BMW in focussing on 2009 from half way through las ear and they are fast. BMW isn’t. That’s the question BMW should be asking – why are they so slow after using all their resoures to design a great 2009 car after the seventh race of 17 last year???

    • Patrickl said on 4th June 2009, 18:30

      So they might have been closer to the title. They still wouldn’t have won it. At best Kubica would have kept third place.

      What would have been the point?

      They did the right thing to focus on 2009 early. It’s just that they missed the double diffuser trick.

      If Kubica had kept is head cool, he would have taken a second place in Australia.

      To be honest I think their problem is based more in the driver(s) than in the car. Kubica has a motivation problem. His performance goes completely out the window when he is preoccupied by something. Heidfeld is doing slightly less worse than Kubica, but he still is unable to qualify and thus unable to produce a useful race result.

      • chaostheory said on 4th June 2009, 19:36

        1)Even if they have put everything they had into 08 car like McLaren and Ferrari did? I say there was a big chance.
        2)RedBull shows that double diffuser is not needed to make good 09 car.
        3)First Raikkonens motivation problems, now Kubicas? In my opinion neither of them have any “motivation” problems. I think in both cases – Kimi AD 2008 and Robert AD 2009 – there was/is something wrong on driver – team line.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th June 2009, 20:33

        So they might have been closer to the title. They still wouldn’t have won it. At best Kubica would have kept third place.

        I don’t agree – look how many points Massa and Hamilton threw away last season with needless mistakes and incidents. Kubica was the model of consistency. I wouldn’t say they threw away a likely championship but they were in with a shout and, as Kubica said, you don’t pass up those chances lightly in F1.

        • Patrickl said on 5th June 2009, 9:58

          Kubica was NOT the model of consistency. That was only the case during the first 7 races (of which he failed to finish only the first). I guess the fanbase keeps reporting the situation like the whole season was like that. Kubica was in the lead and he had done a great job so far. Then he dropped back down the order and they try to blame it on BMW.

          Reality is that it was Kubica himself who failed quite a lot in the rest of the season too. For instance the next 4 races after Canada he was completely outclassed scoring only 7 points out of those 4 races.

          Kubica won only the seventh race. How is that a championship contender? He was headed for third or fourth during the whole season. The only time he popped up was after Hamilton and Raikkonen had their two problematic races around the Canada race and Massa the first 2 races. While Kubica kept picking up 3rd and 4th places he made up a lot of ground. So he was on top of the leader board one time. Big deal.

  6. Dougie said on 4th June 2009, 13:49

    Yeah, PJA comments and subsequent replies firmly prove that Brawn are ahead this year due to a much better design and race preparation and strategy, and very little to do with the Diffuser.

    Also, that the teams behind are behind because they focussed too much on the KERS systems at the expense of other parts of the cars… Red Bull are a classic example of where KERS or the Diffuser has not put them at the front, but just an overall great design. Brawn & Toyota have not got KERS either.

    Which, in some ways, goes to show why I am in favour of the budget cap… you have £xx to spend, allocate your resource where you like. The teams then have to balance that resource across the car, some focus too much on KERS, others on Aero, others on Mechanical (e.g. push rod suspension), or combinations of. The cool thing is that it mixes things up and creates advantages at different circuits for different teams, or you are maybe not the fastest everywhere but consistently fast, making the racing overall closer.

  7. Jess said on 4th June 2009, 14:56

    I hope Nick Heidfeld can get a win before his career is over.

  8. Bigbadderboom said on 4th June 2009, 14:59

    I feel that at least some of Kubica and Heidfelds problems may be of their own doing in respect of aiding car development. On the limited radio comms we have heard over the start of the season Kubica has seemed to be less than constructive, but over critical of the car, and sometimes the team. My current opinion of him is that of a spoilt child at the moment, he took all the plaudits last year when he was leading the championship at one point, but he now seems either not to know, (or reluctant to), help the team solve the issues they have. I am not so damning in my opinion of Heidfeld because at least he gets the car home, and has improved upon his grid position half the time.

    That said however, this spell for BMW does not reflect well for Mario and his team, they seem to be the slowest to react to changes both in rules interpretation, the other teams actions and strategically on the track. I thought they would be there or there abouts this year, and unless they show some real pace this weekend they can probably right this season off.

    • Patrickl said on 4th June 2009, 18:36

      Indeed, that’s exactly the feeling I get with Kubica too.

      He showed the same behavior last year actually. At the end of the season he started whining about how they helped Heidfeld and about his perceived missed opportunity and “all of a sudden” the car didn’t “work” anymore for him.

    • Brendyman said on 4th June 2009, 18:58

      Judging by the (as you said) limited radio traffic, that is a logical assumption. Robert is just acting like he’s only driving and that’s it while in fact the development of the car is also one of the driver’s tasks.

      On the other hand however, for instance in Monaco, the only radio traffic I heard from Robert was about the car being horrible and about the lack of lateral grip, and now my question – can’t the team modify the rear spoiler to produce more grip? I mean – hell – that’s what it’s for, isn’t it? It just seems that BMW has no ideas whatsoever on how to improve the car and even if they get one, it has to go through a loooong approval/development/testing/whatever pipeline before actually we can see it implemented. The diffuser is a perfect example of it.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th June 2009, 20:34

      On the limited radio comms we have heard over the start of the season Kubica has seemed to be less than constructive, but over critical of the car, and sometimes the team.

      Maybe, but the fragments of radio we get are so tiny it’s hard to make that kind of assumption.

  9. Hallard said on 4th June 2009, 15:47

    @Bigbadderboom- I totally agree with your perception of Kubica. It is very irritating when drivers criticize their team so publically. I understand not being happy, but it seems like drivers like Kubica and Rosberg are just ungrateful to be in F1. Even hot-head Alonso has kept his criticism of renault constructive. I would say its one of those qualities that makes for a mature driver.

  10. Sush Meerkat said on 4th June 2009, 18:24

    The problem i see with a big upgrade is that how do they know which parts are working as they should?, its like the start of the year with a new chassis. Same thing with BMW, the chassis will be a different lighter version. So essentially a new car.

  11. dan said on 4th June 2009, 18:57

    not only have BMW lacked pace, but Kubica has been terribly unlucky in every race:

    australia: crash with Vettel
    malaysia: engine blew up
    china: front wing falling off
    Bahrain: front wing damage
    Spain: Tyre mistake on Quali 3
    Monaco: Retired from brake problem

    without these problems, Kubica would have picked up a few points, espesially in australia.

    • Patrickl said on 5th June 2009, 10:10

      Seriously, how is that based on luck?

      In Australia, Kubica should have kept a cool head (instead of his daft dream for the win) and passed vettel in a corner where there truly was space to do so. Or at least give the guy some space to make it through the corner.

      In China it wasn’t like the wing just fell off. He crashed into Trulli! That really was a mega blunder on Kubica’s part.

      Don’t remember what incident he was involved in at Bahrain, but again, being involved in an incident is not “unlucky”.

      At Monaco he was already at the back. Don’t think the brake problem cost him much …

  12. Svlad Cjelli said on 4th June 2009, 19:29

    I bet BMW hate the sight of Brawn GP. Why?? Well, didn’t both teams decide to halt development of their current cars and concerntrate on next seasons cars? Look how different the respective team’s fortunes have gone since then. Oh, and Brawn use a Merc engine.. HAHA!

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th June 2009, 20:35

      True, but Brawn switched resource much earlier. Right from the start of 2008 (as Honda) they were saying their car was compromised because of their 2009 programme.

  13. manatcna said on 5th June 2009, 1:38

    Both BMW and Toyota need a good result in Turkey to get motivated.

    I wouldn’t think they could win, but maybe 4th or 5th place would get their Mojo working.

  14. Jay Menon said on 5th June 2009, 2:54

    I was one off those that expected BMW to put up a fight this season, but back in January, I was tipping Alonso for a title push, of course that was before the Brawn team existed.

    BMW look to have lost the plot, and even with this new DD, I don’t expect them to mount any challenge whatsover for the front of the grid. A 7th or 8th finish for both cars would be considered a success. Dr. Mario’s team have a model of consistent improvement over the years, and it quite surprising that such a clanger slipped through his watchful eyes.

    For me, along with Renault, BMW are the biggest disappointments this season, I would have added Ferrari to that list, but they seem to have turned the corner. I was expecting Mclaren to disappoint, so no surprise there.

    My tips for Turkey starting grid, Button and Vettel 1 and 2, Rubens and Kimi 3 and 4, Massa and Alonso 5 and 6, Webber and Rosberg 7 and 8, and the last two places fought out between a Mclaren and BMW (hoping their update works)

  15. The Limit said on 5th June 2009, 5:18

    I think the 2009 season has passed BMW Sauber by already. Putting a new difuser on the car will not necessarily aid their cause, it hasn’t exactly added much to McLaren’s performance.
    The only team to have made big improvements are Ferrari, who look the most likely of the ‘established’ teams to mount a charge against the Brawn Gp cars. You have to feel sorry for Kubica though.
    So much expectation on his talented shoulders. Atleast with Hamilton one can boast that he had two good years driving decent machinery, Robert has not even had that luxary. As for Heidfeld I feel even worse, and the omens do not look good for his career, as age is not on his side.

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