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BMW begin another Formula One chapter 29 Jun 2005

The BMW Engine. Belgian GP, Zolder, 29 April 1984. World ©  Sutton Nelson Piquet (BRA) Brabham BT52 finished second. Monaco Grand Prix, Rd 5, Monte Carlo, 15 May 1983. World ©  Sutton Gerhard Berger (AUT) Arrows BMW A8 qualified eighth and finished seventh. Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps 15 September 1985. World ©  Sutton Gerhard Berger(AUT), Benetton BMW B186 Formula One World Championship, 1986. World ©  Sutton Mark Webber (AUS) Williams BMW FW27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Montreal, Canada, 10 June 2005

Even by Formula One standards it was not a particularly well-kept secret in the paddock. BMW's desire to buy control of a team has been a major talking point for some time - so the announcement that the German car manufacturer was purchasing Sauber did not come as any huge surprise to the industry's insiders.

For BMW it could turn out to be a particularly canny decision. During its five year technical collaboration with the Williams team it has already built up a serious level of Formula One engine-building know-how - combined with Sauber's undoubted aerodynamic expertise it could turn into a dream partnership.

Nor is this the first time that BMW has entered Formula One as a manufacturer in its own right - the company has had a long association with the sport through five decades, as both an engine supplier and an entrant.

The very first BMW-powered Formula One car actually lined up on the grid of the 1952 British Grand Prix, when Tony Crook's BMW-powered Fraser-Nash 421 qualified in 25th place and ended the race in 21st. It wasn't the most successful of starts for BMW - although Crook went on to successfully run the Bristol Car Company for many years - and during the next two years the company supplied engines to a variety of minor teams, with Fritz Riess managing to use one to finish seventh in the 1952 German Grand Prix in his Veritas RS.

It was to be the company's only success for many years. In 1954 BMW withdrew from the sport and, apart from an abortive attempt to supply engines to Lola in the late 1960s, it was not to return until 1981 - by which time the turbo era was in full swing.

BMW already had considerable expertise in turbocharging road-going cars, and was relatively quickly able to deliver competitive engines despite the massive strains put on motors by the vast boost pressures being run at the time. It was a time of huge power outputs, in ‘qualifying’ trim engines were turning out anything up to 1200 bhp, over 25 percent more than modern Formula One cars manage.

At the Canadian Grand Prix in 1982 a BMW-powered Brabham was driven to victory by Nelson Piquet, giving the company its first win in the sport. Later in the year, in Austria, the Brazilian gave BMW its first pole position, too. The 1983 season saw the Brabham-BMW combination take third place in the constructors’ championship.

After supplying other teams including Benetton and Arrows teams, BMW withdrew from the sport again in 1987 as the turbocharged regulations were wound up. It would prove to be a 13-year absence, BMW eventually rejoining the sport in 2000 when the current engine supply deal with the Williams team was first put in place.

The following year Ralf Schumacher took his BMW-powered Williams to victory in San Marino, the team's first victory since the Gerhard Berger’s 1986 Benetton win in Mexico. Nine more victories have followed since and the team took second in the 2002 constructors’ championship - BMW’s best ever result. They ended last season in style, winning the final race in Brazil, and with the Williams team's on-form performance in 2005 - a pole position and four podiums so far - there would be little surprise if that tally was added to further by the end of this season.

Beyond that? Over to you guys in Munich and Hinwil…