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Exclusive - BMW's Mario Theissen on 2011 13 Jun 2007

Dr Mario Theissen (GER) BMW Sauber F1 Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Montreal, Canada, Friday, 8 June 2007

As BMW Sauber endured a weekend of both high drama and glory in Montreal, we caught up with team principal and BMW Motorsport Director, Mario Theissen, to discuss his feelings on FIA President Max Mosley’s recently-revealed vision for the future of Formula One racing…

Q: In Monaco Max Mosley presented his plan for a ‘greener’ Formula One from 2011. What is the state of discussions at BMW Sauber?
Mario Theissen:
We should not call it ‘green’ Formula One or ‘green’ motorsport. We should emphasize that we see a chance to pioneer future technologies for road cars, which make road cars more environmentally friendly. But motorsport itself will never be ‘green’. It should be thought of as a pioneering role. And as to the state of discussion: we have been given the draft of the future regulations in Barcelona. We have had a closer look at it meanwhile and had first discussions with the other manufacturers and have established a working group to evaluate the proposal. We have been asked by the FIA to come up with our own ideas and add them to the draft - that is currently happening. I feel it is a quite constructive process and I expect us to come up with something very reasonable together with the FIA in the coming months.

Q: Theoretically, Formula One could become a major catalyst for road car engine development. How does a major motor manufacturer like BMW view this opportunity to link Formula One activity to consumer car production?
MT:
We are speaking here about a mixed blessing. First of all, such a link can become very expensive, but yes, it also can become very interesting in terms of road car relevant technology. This is why we say we see it as a chance. But we have to be very careful to get it right in order to keep costs under control and ensure that it is really road car relevant. I think it is worth pursuing it.

Q: One of the cornerstones of the proposed programme of changes is that Formula One racing has to show awareness of global changes. Wasting energy and limitless spending will no longer have a place. How do you see the future?
MT:
With the new regulations the future could be that Formula One, which is still the top league in motorsport, which is still a technology driven Formula, aims to orientate its technology in a way that the money we have to spend is not just spend for Formula One but as a pacemaker for future road car technology.

Q: Even with engine homologation and the single-tyre rule in place, the FIA says only two teams have actually cut their budgets. This would suggest that from their perspective, cutting costs equates to reduced competitiveness. Would you agree?
MT:
First of all I want to state that we have reduced our budget. I don’t know if we are one of just two or if there are more than two. I would expect it to be more than two. On the other hand the cost cutting of the past two years has mainly been in power train, and with the 2011 regulations on the horizon no one can expect us to cut back significantly on our power train R&D resources because we know that next year we really need to rush to position for 2011. You cannot cut resources - especially people - in one year and take them on board again next year.

Q: Isn’t the immense financial power - the seemingly limitless availability of resources - one of the things that makes Formula One racing so attractive?
MT:
Formula One is a unique blend of sport, technology, business and show. We have to be aware that only this combination accounts for the success - so we have to maintain these factors. With this new direction in terms of power train regulations it could even be enhanced. It is absolutely clear that this will cost a lot of money and we will have to spend quite some time on it to get it right. We have to give it deep thoughts. It will not be easy to achieve all the targets - but it is a chance.

Q: Another proposal is to add bio-fuel to conventional fuel and increase the percentage step by step. Is an ‘eco Formula One car’ thinkable?
MT:
Absolutely. I would say that this is an easy step that can be taken earlier than 2011.

Q: The new rules for 2011 will be confirmed on January 1, 2008 - unless the manufacturers unite and make a counterproposal. How likely is that, given the number of failed joint actions in the past?
MT:
Obviously we are competitors not only on the racetrack but also in the marketplace. It is no secret that the manufacturers in the individual companies have individual programmes and directions - on the other hand I sense quite a constructive attitude of the part of most manufacturers. I don’t really expect a counter-proposal, I expect that we will develop something on the basis of what the FIA has presented.

Q: Are there already any causes of friction?
MT:
We are discussing the architecture of the power train, which is the basic concept.