Exclusive Q&A - BMWs Mario Theissen 26 Apr 2006
The arrival of BMW Saubers sophisticated new motorhome at Imola signalled just how serious the team are about Formula One racing. In the months to come the pressure is on to display that will to succeed on-track as well as off it. Team principal, Dr Mario Theissen, is in no doubt that they have got what it takes
Q: Four races into the season are you on schedule with your plans for the evolution of BMW Sauber?
Mario Theissen: The programme for building the new team is on track. We have put the major building stones in place, like a development programme for the coming year, staff development, personnel development plan, the extension plan of the building in Switzerland, additional people are coming, the performance of the car is probably what we had expected in such a short period of time.
Q: What is the teams current head count and are there plans for a further growth?
MT: At Hinwil we started with about 280, we will go beyond 400 and there are no changes in Munich.
Q: Is Peter Sauber still in the picture? He is obviously still attending all the races and dressed in BMW team outfit.
MT: Peter Sauber is still with the team although he doesnt have an operational role and is not part of the management of the board. He has a consulting role.
Q: The signing of third driver Robert Kubica was quite a surprise. His performance proved you right. What are your expectations and what are your plans for his future?
MT: He has exceeded expectations so far. I know it was a risk to take on such a young and inexperienced person as a third driver. So we are really pleased with his performance and the way he develops. We certainly expect him to continue on this path and that would mean he has a future in Formula One. He is still a very young guy and we should give him the time to develop. There is a lot to learn in Formula One as it is very complex and it certainly takes a year to understand the entire picture.
Q: Is Kubica a sign that BMW plan to nurture their own talents via the Friday driver position rather then hiring established test drivers?
MT: Not only is it with the drivers where it is our approach to nurture our own talents, and to develop people within the team. That also applies to engineers and technicians, so it fits very well to our approach. For Robert especially, I really dont see what an experienced test driver would give us on top of what we get from Robert.
Q: You are now the principal of one of the big teams - can you share your experiences so far? How much more pressure is there on you now? Or is it easier to operate now that you have total control?
MT: Everybody in Formula One is under pressure permanently because Formula One is about pushing the envelope day by day. My new role is just more complex than it used to be, so I need to deal with things with the complete picture now. On the other hand there are experienced people supporting me on the technical side as well as on the commercial side so the pressure is not really bigger than it used to be.
Q: What do you now see for the team in the season ahead? Any further overhauls planned to further eliminate any remaining weaknesses?
MT: I would not call it another overhaul, we are in the middle of a programme that extends for at least two years to ramp up the team, to build up the team including, as I said before, taking on more people in the factory. The aim is to keep the efficiency of the original Sauber team and to bolster resources where we see we are handicapped to date with our development performance. A classic example is the wind tunnel, which is an amazing facility but it was only working on a one-shift operation due to the amount of personnel available. Meanwhile we have moved on to two shifts and before the end of the year we want to be on three shifts like all our competitors.