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BMW Sauber well prepared for Bahrain 24 Feb 2006

Willi Rampf (SUI) BMW Sauber Technical Director talks with Dr Mario Theissen (GER) BMW Motorsport Technical Director. BMW Sauber Roll Out, Valencia, Spain, 17 January 2006. World © Sutton

Poor weather conditions at Imola on Friday meant BMW Sauber brought an early close to their final pre-season test. Neither Jacques Villeneuve nor third driver Robert Kubica completed a timed lap, but technical director Willy Rampf insisted he was pleased with the test and the team’s winter programme in general.

"Overall we are very happy with the way the preparations are going,” said Rampf. “Since the roll-out on 17th January we have covered a total of 9,950 kilometres with the F1.06 and have had no major problems. In terms of reliability, our car has reached a high standard. We had scheduled a very ambitious test programme and were able to work through it almost completely. It ranged from the initial system checks all the way to a complete race simulation including pit stops.

“As far as performance goes, we're also making good progress, but of course the only real benchmark will be the first race in Bahrain. I'm very happy with the integration process, which is already well advanced. The cooperation between Munich and Hinwil is working out extremely well. Our successful preparations have also been helped by the fact that the three drivers haven't caused the slightest bit of damage to the car. We will be heading for Bahrain well prepared."

Like Rampf, Villeneuve has remained with the team through the transition from Sauber to BMW Sauber and the former champion believes they have taken a major step forward since being acquired by the German automaker.

“The performance is definitely a big improvement compared to last year,” he said. “How this compares to the competition is very difficult to judge, but I strongly believe that we are looking better than one year ago. The BMW Sauber F1.06 is easier to handle than last year's car and the BMW engine is very good, very smooth to drive."

Villeneuve’s 2006 team mate is German Nick Heidfeld, whom BMW lured away from Williams following their split from the British team. Kubica completes the BMW Sauber line-up and will become the first Polish driver to officially participate in a Grand Prix weekend when he runs in Friday practice in Bahrain next month.