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Exclusive interview - BMW Sauber's Mario Theissen 15 Feb 2008

BMW motorsport director Dr Mario Theissen Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.08 Formula One Testing, Day Three, Jerez, Spain, 14 February 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.08 Formula One Testing, Day Three, Jerez, Spain, 14 February 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.07. Formula One Testing, Day Four, Valencia, Spain, Thursday 24 January 2008. World © Hartley/Sutton BMW Sauber F1.08 detail Formula One Testing, Day Four, Valencia, Spain, Thursday 24 January 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton

2007 was a vintage year for BMW Sauber. Indeed, since the German auto giant bought Sauber back in June 2005 the team have enjoyed strong progress with few setbacks. The question now is whether the F1.08 can continue their upward trend.

Though the new car has shown excellent reliability, it still seems lacking in pace compared to Ferrari and McLaren. However, you need more than just single-lap speed to win a Grand Prix and team principal Mario Theissen is confident BMW Sauber has what it takes…

Q: After testing the 2007 car in December you said that the team needed to find over half a second to be able to win races in 2008. Now we are in mid-February and you are running the new car - are you still trying to close the gap?
Mario Theissen:
Yes. The F1.08 has been very reliable straight out of the box. In terms of speed, we have made some good progress in the past weeks, but there is definitely room for further improvement.

Q: The new BMW Sauber looks distinctively different from the rest of the grid. Is this the result of linking your super computer Albert 2 and the wind tunnel?
MT:
Obviously, the surface of the car is determined by aerodynamic performance. The big step from F1.07 to F1.08 reflects the increased capacity in aero development - and the ability to make best use of these resources.

Q: And could similar links be the future of chassis development?
MT:
The close interaction of computer simulation and testing has become a core competence in automotive engineering - not just in F1, and not just in aerodynamics.

Q: Since the fusion of BMW and Sauber, the team has not made a mistake - at least not one that has drastically hampered progress. However, your development curve cannot head north continuously - any chance of things going south with the F1.08?
MT:
We'll go south indeed - as far as Melbourne! In terms of performance, F1.08 is only our third step with more to follow. Our targets are ambitious, and to reach them we have to take risks. Sometimes it doesn't pay off right away, but you can only explore new territory if you go there.

Q: In the past, you were not too happy about the ten-year engine freeze. Now that’s been cut to five years, with plans for a totally new, environmentally friendly engine by 2012/13. Happy with the change?
MT:
Yes, we support this move. The five-year freeze including ancillaries allows us to reduce costs further on the engine side and to free up capacity for the development of the KERS system. At the same time, an expert group can define the framework for a new engine, which is in line with future engine technology trends.

Q: Everybody seems to agree with the desire to cut, or indeed cap, costs. But the route to reduced spending is somewhat obscured by individual interests. Is it realistic to expect manufacturer teams to run on a reduced ‘midfield’ budget?
MT:
We have never believed in sheer size being a success factor. Even with all the staff on board now, the BMW Sauber F1 Team is not bigger than what you would call a ‘midfield’ team. Apparently, that works.

Q: If it was up to you to dream up an idea to reduce costs, what do you believe could satisfy both ends of the pit lane?
MT:
I still prefer to dream of other things than a cost cap concept! There is a straightforward approach in place - an expert group led by the FIA and including representatives of all teams will draft a proposal. We support the idea of a cost cap, since it leaves it with the individual teams to make the best use of their resources. And I'm very confident we will come to a satisfactory solution.