They won their first Grand Prix in 2008 and finished a convincing third in the constructors’ championship. Now BMW Sauber are hoping their new car will power them to even greater things in 2009.
After testing a heavily revised hybrid car over the winter, the wraps finally came off the F1.09 at a special launch ceremony at the Spanish circuit of Valencia on Tuesday, with race drivers Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica in attendance.
The F1.09 completed its first installation lap shortly after and will begin its first test programme at the track later in the day. BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen said its target is to regularly challenge for victories in 2009 and to fight for the championship title.
“The one-two in Canada and a total of 11 podium finishes in 2008 set an exacting standard,” he said. “In 2009 we are looking to maintain our first-class reliability record while at the same time enhancing our performance levels so that we can be at the front of the pack on a consistent basis. We are aware that we are aiming extremely high. This is the final step in our development, and that’s generally the hardest one to take.”
The concept phase for the F1.09 began back in February 2008 and the 2009 regulation changes – reduced aerodynamics, the introduction of KERS and the return of slick tyres – mean the new car cuts a very different figure from all of its predecessors.
Its nose is higher and much wider than before. The huge front wing consists of three elements and stretches across the full width of the car. The rear wing, on the other hand, is considerably slimmer – in line with the new regulations – and stands unusually high against the onrushing air. Intricate aerodynamic add-ons, such as air deflectors and cooling air exits, have been reduced to a minimum. Another eye-catching feature are the sidepods, which are now higher at the front. The front axle has also been modified and the rear axle is a new design.
Willy Rampf is responsible for the F1.09 concept and will oversee operations at the race track in his capacity as technical coordinator. Managing Director of BMW
Sauber AG, Walter Riedl, will lead the technical department at the team’s Hinwil plant in Switzerland and has responsibility for the development of the car.
While the chassis is the work of the Hinwil team, the KERS technology has been developed in Munich. There, Markus Duesmann (head of powertrain) and his team also have the job of preparing the BMW V8 engine for the extra mileage stipulated in the regulations. Each driver is allocated eight engines for the 2009 season.
It may be all-change in terms of the engineering behind the car, but the men behind the wheel will be the same as in 2008. The team will once again line up on the grid with the Pole Kubica and German Heidfeld as their driver pairing. And 26-year-old Austrian Christian Klien also stays with the team as test and reserve driver.
BMW Sauber have conducted intensive preparations for 2009 as they attempt to achieve their latest ambitious aim. These have included early testing with KERS and new aero elements.
“The team started work early on the wide range of changes,” said Heidfeld. “I’m confident that we’re in good shape and am looking forward to the first race, when we’ll see whether the balance of power has shifted at all.”
Theissen concluded: “In the three years since the BMW Sauber F1 Team was formed, we have always met the goals we set ourselves and are confident that we can do so again this season.”