Wave the flag with
the BMW WilliamsF1 Team!
The story of Frank Williams and his F1 success
season with BMW
Interview with BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen:
Q How would you sum up the
2004 season for BMW Motorsport?
A Very mixed. Naturally we
are unhappy with the results of the BMW WilliamsF1 Team in Formula One.
Fourth place in the Constructors' World Championship clearly does not
fulfill our target. After consistently exceeding our targets for four
years, this time we fell short. That said, we were still able to celebrate
a consolation win in São Paulo. On the touring car front, BMW enjoyed some
brilliant successes in claiming the Manufacturers' and Drivers' title and
with its wins in the 24 Hour Races on the Nürburgring and at Spa. The continuing
globalisation of Formula BMW has progressed very positively. After the series in
Germany and Asia, the new championships in Britain and the USA have made their
Q Why did the BMW WilliamsF1 Team
fail to meet its expectations for the season?
A After the very promising test
drives at the beginning of the year, we basically realised during the first
Grand Prix in Australia that the competition had made a greater leap forward in
development than we had. WilliamsF1 had risked a great deal with their new
concept and the striking nose cone. In retrospect it's easy to say we should
have gone down a different route, but we didn't want to be on a par with the
competition - we wanted to overtake them. And that demands a certain risk.
That's why we supported WilliamsF1 in that. Unfortunately, on the race track the
disadvantages of this vehicle concept proved to outweigh the advantages that had
been shown in the simulation tests. The front aerodynamic geometries provided
some benefits, but also hampered the progression of the car in some areas, and
ultimately new aero developments were put in place that allowed greater
performance to be achieved on the track.
Q How did the BMW WilliamsF1 Team
respond to these insights?
A WilliamsF1 reacted with a
remarkable tour de force. The team was restructured and the chassis division
brought along modifications to virtually every Grand Prix. In France, and by the
Hungarian GP at the latest, that became evident in the new sidepods and the
slimmed-down nose. Though we are by no means satisfied by the results, I am
happy with the way the team tackled this difficult situation and did its utmost
as the season went on. Winning the final race of the season gives the team an
important boost for development work in the winter.
Q Were there any other factors that
had a negative effect?
A Yes, in other ways too it wasn't
an easy season. Ralf's accident in Indianapolis and his 14-week recuperation
period really hit the team hard. Then there were also disqualifications to come
to terms with. In general we were in an unusual situation with respect to our
drivers as they both left the team at the end of the season. Even though the
drivers and the team handled it relatively well, this constellation of factors
certainly didn't do our results any favours. In previous years, the BMW engine
was the measure of all things in Formula One.
Q Did that also apply to the
P84 in the 2004 season?
A The BMW engine was the most
powerful unit in the field in 2004 as well. This is shown by the records set up
in Monza - at 369.9 km/h, Pizzonia posted the highest top speed in F1 history,
while in prequalifying Montoya drove the highest average speed ever attained in
Formula One. Monza is the Formula One course with the greatest full-throttle
load at around 70 percent: in other words, it's a real engine circuit. But far
more compelling evidence that the BMW engine was the benchmark for 2004 again is
the fact that we were able to drive at maximum engine speed in the race as well,
and in seventh, i.e. the highest gear and the one most in use. You practically
rip through the lower gears. With the lifting of the rpm limit for the entire
race distance, which was virtually doubled by the regulations for 2004, the BMW
P84 clearly stood out in Formula One. And the BMW engine remained reliable as
well. There was just one retirement due to engine failure.
Q What consequences will be drawn
from the 2004 season?
A We have had to draw many lessons
from our experience this year. Naturally, aerodynamics are a cornerstone of
performance, and much energy will be committed to this, not least with the
second, state-of-the-art wind tunnel going on stream. That investment has to
bear fruit in 2005. In other technical areas, the ongoing optimised pooling of
resources from Munich and Grove must deliver fresh results. In 2005 we want to
close the gap to the leaders again. The end of the 2004 season has show that
we're on the right track.
Q How are chassis and engine
preparations going for 2005?
A The new chassis, the FW27, will
be introduced at the end of January. As for the engine for the 2005 season, we
have basically had to develop two concepts. The first was virtually completed
and was already running in the car on test drives when it was announced that
engines would have to last for two Grand Prix weekends in 2005. As a result, we
had to change tack.
Q What do you think of the
regulation changes for the engines?
A Basically by extending the
lifespan you can save money, of course, as you don't need as many engines. But
that should have been decided a lot earlier, otherwise that advantage will be
more than wiped out by developments which prove pointless in retrospect, as has
now happened. The proposed introduction of 2.4-litre V8 engines in the future
would again involve a costly development effort that would in no way be
compensated for by saving two cylinders per engine. There should be a completely
new concept, not just for the engine but for the car as a whole. So much for
costs. Against the background of the safety argument, one has to take other
aspects into consideration as well - the fact that lap times have gone down
again in 2004 compared with 2003, even though the engines have been restricted
through a doubling of the distance, clearly proves that the engines are not
responsible for it. If you want to make F1 safer, you have to go back to the
causes of accidents. These were tyre damage and debris on the track. That view
can be backed by numerous facts and we continue to endorse that position.
Q What is the significance for BMW
of winning the FIA European Touring Car Championship (ETCC)?
A These international titles mean a
great deal to BMW. The national BMW teams have fought hard throughout the season
in 20 races held in eight countries and jointly ensured that the Manufacturers'
title was sewn up by BMW with three races to go. We had gone in with high aims
for the season and we have met them. We wanted to defend the Manufacturers'
Championship with the BMW 320i and also win the Drivers' title. Beyond that, Tom
Coronel once again took the Independents Trophy for privateers in the FIA ETCC.
It couldn't have been better.
Q The European Touring Car
Championship will become a World Championship in 2005. Is that something BMW
looks forward to?
A BMW has a longstanding and, above
all, very successful tradition in international touring car racing. It has 20
European Championship titles alone to its name, as well as having won the only
FIA Touring Car World Championship carried out to date. That was in 1987, when
the title went to Roberto Ravaglia, who today runs one of the national teams in
the FIA ETCC. It's tremendous that the World Championship is being revived again
for touring car racing. We aim to deliver a good performance on that stage as
well. Other manufacturers and well-known drivers, moreover, will ensure a
growing interest in the event.
Q How will BMW handle its
involvement in the new World Championship?
A In principle, exactly as we have
done in the European Championship. For BMW Motorsport, it is a very crucial
advantage in being able to compete worldwide with one car that we are developing
in Munich and will then sell to customer teams around the world as a sports kit.
BMW Motorsport will provide the necessary backing, as before. No official BMW
works involvement is planned because that would go against the spirit of the
Super 2000 regulations, which are aimed at affordable touring car racing. The
regulations allow for manageable technology and calculable budgets for
involvements in interesting markets.
Q How do you view the international
development of Formula BMW?
A The Formula BMW UK Championship
had a flying start. Formula racing has a long tradition in Great Britain and
most of the teams had had a great deal of experience. Although it's not the same
story in North America, Formula BMW USA managed to establish itself immediately
as the most important entry-level series in Open Wheel Racing there. It won the
hearts and minds of a lot of fans this season.
Q How do you explain the worldwide
success of Formula BMW?
A Firstly, we set standards when it
comes to safety. Our vehicles meet all safety criteria for the significantly
more powerful and faster Formula 3 racing cars. Secondly, Formula BMW offers its
drivers more than simply a car. Our education and coaching programme teaches the
next generation of drivers everything they need to know to make their way in the
world of motor sport. That concept has taken Formula BMW right to the top:
Formula BMW has leapt from a standing start to the top entry-level series for
global Formula racing.