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Exclusive interview - BMW Sauber’s Mario Theissen 18 Sep 2007

Handshake for BMW Sauber driver Robert Kubica from BMW Motorsport Director Dr Mario Theissen Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.07.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 16 September 2007 Dr Mario Theissen (GER) BMW Sauber F1 Team Principal and Flavio Briatore (ITA) Renault Team Principal on the grid. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 16 September 2007 Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.07.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 16 September 2007 Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber on the grid. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 16 September 2007

With the FIA’s decision to strip McLaren of their constructors’ points, BMW Sauber inherited second place in the constructors’ standings. If, as is expected, they stay there, it will have significant effects on them for next year.

But for team principal Mario Theissen, feet firmly on the ground as ever, that remains largely an irrelevance. As far as he is concerned, there are still two teams out there that need to be beaten on the track - and that is exactly his plan for 2008…

Q: How would you interpret the FIA verdict against McLaren?
Mario Theissen:
I think it is a big fine. Since we are not involved in the case I don’t have all the detailed information, so I cannot judge if it is correct, or too hard or not hard enough. But certainly it is the biggest fine we ever have seen. I am sure the FIA did not take a quick and easy decision, but it was well thought through and I can only hope that the case is over now with this judgment in order for us to focus on the sport again.

Q: But the verdict triggers all kinds of opinion…
MT:
Yes, some say the penalty is too grave, others that it is not grave enough. Opinions differ substantially - for me a sign that there is a gap in the level of information. Mine I would call fragmentary at best, and I’m not unhappy about it as we are not involved. In my view the verdict gives the signal that was intended - not only to the team as a whole but to the single individual - that what was going on is unacceptable.

Q: Will that have any influence on BMW Sauber?
MT:
I don’t expect that.

Q: Barring any appeal, the verdict moves BMW Sauber into second place in the constructors’ championship, but does it guarantee you more television money and the number two spot in the pit lane next season?
MT:
I don’t have definite information this very moment on the position on the garages and on the money distribution. We will wait and see what happens. But it is not relevant to us. We take a different angle: we see four cars ahead of us - two teams ahead of us - and that is the only thing that counts. We have to beat them on the track. For me it does not matter whether we are called number two or number three. We have been the third-strongest team this year and we are proud of that - the rest will have to happen next year.

Q: There are already rumours of other questionable information transfers between teams, as people change employer. Do you think there’s a case to be made for an enforced 12-month sabbatical for senior technical staff when moving team?
MT:
I am sure this case and the judgment is a very strong signal to everybody in Formula One that what had happened here is not acceptable. Certainly teams will look at this situation and review the contractual situation of their employees and the team’s key people will make up their mind as well. I think that this probably is the most positive side of the entire case.

Q: What would you think if a driver were to act against the interests of his team?
MT:
I would not like to have such a driver in my team. I expect our drivers to act in the interest of the team.

Q: Coming back to the technical development at BMW Sauber, how are you combining the use of your new CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) computer with your wind tunnel work?
MT:
We have taken a major step earlier this year with the increase of our computing power. I think for the time being we have the biggest CFD computer running and we have managed to align experimental work in the wind tunnel and theoretical work on the computer. They push each other. The wind tunnel still is bigger than the computer - we can do more different runs per day than on the computer, but the computer gives the background to a better physical understanding of the data. You need both and the art is to align them in a way that they support each other.

Q: So this is the path BMW Sauber will take with future car development?
MT:
Absolutely. It does not make sense to double or triple the number of runs in the wind tunnel without understanding what goes on. This would always be a trial and error approach whereas the computer provides you with inside information.