Interview - BMWs Mario Theissen 27 Oct 2005
BMW have completed their last season as an engine supplier - next year the German automakers will have their own team following their recent purchase of Sauber. Motorsport Director Mario Theissen looks back on BMWs final campaign with Williams, and ahead to a new, V8-powered, era in the companys Formula One history.
Q: Whats your verdict on the Formula One season 2005?
Mario Theissen: Our sixth season since BMWs return to Formula One in 2000 has also been the most challenging. Obviously, BMW and WilliamsF1 are not satisfied with fifth place in the Constructors championship.
Q: Where did things go awry?
MT: There were many areas where we needed to improve, and the packed Formula One calendar in 2005 - with more races than ever before - didnt give us the time to do that.
Q: Can you give us any details?
MT: The chassis was not up to scratch at the start of the season. We had hoped that the extensive modifications we introduced halfway through the year would allow us to take a step forward, but instead we initially went in the opposite direction. The people in Grove worked tirelessly and their endeavours deserve our respect. In too many races we lacked the speed to pick up points. Added to which, Nick Heidfeld suffered two engine failures. The first came in the heat of Bahrain, and was traced back to a faulty piston. The second was in Canada, a foreseeable scenario where the engine overheated. The engineers thought the air temperature would be lower and the cars werent sent out with maximum cooling. Nick drove almost the whole race right up behind another car and the heat this generated was just too much for the engine to withstand. Nine times an accident robbed a driver of any chance of points. In Indianapolis we were undone by the infamous tyre problems and in Turkey it was a self-inflicted problem that led to tyre side wall damage.
Q: Did the official confirmation of the split with WilliamsF1 have an adverse effect on the end-of-season result?
MT: No. Everybody involved gave one hundred percent - their own futures were also on the line. Extending the partnership into the future would not have made us any faster.
Q: How are preparations progressing for 2006?
MT: Our primary focus has been on the current season with our partner WilliamsF1 and we maintained this intensity right up to the last race. Our new project started up in parallel. We have worked systematically to bring the locations in Munich and Hinwil together for the new team and are on schedule. Since the decision by the Board of Management on June 22nd, employees from the various departments have been coming and going between the two locations on an almost daily basis. Our first step was to weigh up the respective resources in the various areas of the team. Then we finalised the relevant targets and put the requisite working processes in place. Recruitment interviews have been held since September, with reinforcements for the aerodynamics department in Hinwil the top priority. We are looking to use the outstanding wind tunnel as frequently as possible, as soon as possible.
Q: To what extent do you intend to strengthen the team?
MT: At present, the locations in Munich and Hinwil each employ around 300 people for the Formula One project. We are planning to add another 100 or so people to the team in Hinwil. The aim is to increase the overall workforce to 700.
Q: How are you going about the recruitment process?
MT: Were taking a very thorough approach. A lot of people apply to work in motor sport out of love for the sport, and its up to us to look carefully at the expertise, performance and ability to work in a team which those applicants can offer. We are aiming to employ a mixture of BMW employees interested in getting into motor sport, university graduates and established experts from a range of backgrounds.
Q: What progress has been made with the 2006 chassis and engine?
MT: The foundations for next years chassis were already in place by the end of the 2005 season and the aerodynamics department in Hinwil has since been working on the optimisation of individual components. At the same time, further advances have been made in Munich with the new P86 V8 engine in preparation for winter testing.
Q: What are the problems in switching from a V10 engine to a V8?
MT: The V8 may look like a sawn-off V10 with the same cylinder angle, but technically it is an entirely separate concept. The ignition sequence and intervals are different and this means a new situation in terms of vibrations. The critical area for a V10 lies between 12,000 and 14,000 rpm - not a rev band where the engines spend a lot of time. Instead, they operate mostly at peak revs and that creates problems in the V8. Vibrations enter a critical area at 16,000 rpm and continue to increase from there onwards. The best V8 will be the one which boasts the most effective solution to the vibrations issue. Calculations and analysis of the individual components and simulation of the overall system are the key tools here. In terms of output - proportional to displacement - were talking about a drop of 20 percent. The size of the radiators can also be reduced by 20 percent as a result. Engine speeds will remain in around the same band as with the V10. What is more difficult to achieve is good driveability because, from 2006, the regulations stipulate a fixed duct length for the intake pipes. Variable intake pipes used to allow us to optimise the torque curve. Now we have to find a compromise between maximum power and driveability. Here, factors such as the nature of the track and even the weather conditions play a role. In theory you need different pipe lengths to suit different conditions. In practical terms, the switch to V8 engines flies in the face of the goal to reduce costs.
Q: How does BMW as a company benefit from its involvement in Formula One?
MT: We see our involvement as very positive both within the company and in terms of how BMW is seen by others. Producing an unusually high proportion of components in-house at our Munich location from day one - for everything up to the engine electronics - has allowed us to maximise the transfer of technology between production cars and Formula One and vice-versa. Internally, a project with the emotional impact of Formula One has a high motivational value. And according to an independent marketing study in 2005, BMW gains a greater external benefit from its involvement in Formula One than any other manufacturer. Motor sport without BMW is as difficult to imagine as BMW without motor sport. The racetrack is a natural arena for our company, not just in Formula One, but also in touring car competition and the Formula BMW junior series.