When luxury car maker BMW said they would be launching a Formula One team all of their own a little over a year ago, few thought the German marque were destined for failure. The motor company had been producing very powerful engines for the Williams team at the time, and their units were considered to be among the best in the field. Couple with the success of BMW in other racing series, the team looked to be winners from the get go. The purchase of Sauber from Swiss entrepreneur Peter Sauber meant the team had a good base from which to develop their own car, and while the squad insisted that their goal was a slow and steady progression through the F1 grid, nobody expected the success they have gained from only one season of racing. And if the testing times are to be believed, BMW are on the brink of bringing home regular points, podiums and furthering their success in the sport.
Following the release of 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve from his contract mid-2006, BMW wasted no time in replacing the Canadian with their then Man Friday – Robert Kubica. Partnered with Nick Heidfeld, the pair of drivers collected 29 points between, and added to the 7 Villeneuve managed, the team ended their first season in fifth place in the Constructors race. All in all, it was quite the achievement.
The team have maintained consistency by keeping both drivers for 2007, and the pair have been testing hard all winter. BMW were of the first teams to launch their car, and while the livery may not get as much press attention as Honda’s, I believe the team will be the talking point for much of the upcoming season.
The car has set some incredible times both in Spain and Bahrain, and both Kubica and Heidfeld have regularly finished in the top half of the timing sheets, beating Japanese giants Toyota and Honda, as well as the Newey-designed Red Bull. The pace has led to remarks being made by various drivers, most notably from Felipe Massa, who suggested that BMW were shaping up to be the team to beat this year. While Felipe was probably just deflecting media attention away from himself and the Ferrari team, he may not be too far wrong. Certainly they won’t Championship contenders, but is a race win on the cards?
In terms of reliability, the car has suffered from a few issues, and some insiders have suggested that BMW have gone for outright pace at the cost of getting to the end of the races. I guess the only way of knowing will be in Australia in ten days time.
I think it is clear that BMW have made strides into the Formula One grid, and I now see the Swiss/German team as the next real force to enter the top teams and challenge for titles. Honda and Toyota have appeared to lost some momentum, which will certainly help BMW, and while they are not quite their yet, 2007 will be seen as a momentous year for the team when they look back in 12 months time.
2007 Constructors Prediction: 4th