BMW has acquired a majority share in the Swiss-based Sauber and will take responsibility for the team’s entire package, including the chassis, tyres and drivers, from next year. But where does this leave BMW’s current partner, Williams?
BMW has acquired a majority share in the Swiss-based Sauber and will take responsibility for the F1 team’s entire package, including the chassis, tyres and drivers, from next year. But where does this leave BMW’s current partner, Williams?
The BMW Board of Management made the announcement on Tuesday, ending weeks of speculation about the nature of the Munich-based marque’s continued involvement in Formula One.
BMW Board Member for Development and Purchasing, Professor Burkhard Göschel said: “This decision is a long-term affirmation of BMW’s commitment to F1. We anticipate that F1 will emerge strengthened from the current restructuring phase and that it will continue to represent the top echelon of motor sport for the future as well. For BMW, F1 is thus the right platform for demonstrating our competence as a car manufacturer”.
BMW Motorsport director Mario Theissen said: “The realignment of our F1 strategy is based on two insights. Firstly, the influence of the engine on the winning potential of the overall package has diminished; the car, tyres and drivers play a greater role than they used to. Secondly, from our point of view, an optimal overall package can only be achieved with a fully integrated team and coherent processes throughout.”
“In restructuring we are taking account of these insights. At Sauber we have found a solid foundation for vehicle development and production, along with the requisite know-how and one of the most modern wind tunnels. The results they’ve achieved so far are worthy of respect in the light of the team’s limited budget.
Additional workplaces would also be created at the Sauber headquarters in Hinwil. “The new team would be managed as a fully integrated project from two locations, as has long been standard practice at BMW for series production”, Dr Theissen added.
The announcement is a blow for Grove-based team Williams, who have been exclusive partners with BMW since the brand returned to Formula One in 2000. BMW’s contract to supply Williams with engines runs to 2009 but contains get-out clauses.
Goschel said: “Naturally this decision impacts on our partnership with WilliamsF1. We want to discuss the future options together with WilliamsF1 in order to find the right way forward for both sides.”
“What that future will look like will be decided over the next weeks,” added Dr Theissen. “Irrespective of that decision, we are concentrating on the current season. We still have quite a few goals for this year and we will apply all our powers and professionalism to implement them together with WilliamsF1.”
Sauber’s engines are currently supplied by Ferrari. The relationship between BMW and former world champions Williams has deteriorated in recent months.
Williams competed with Renault engines from 1989 to 1997 when they won five constructors’ championships and four drivers’ titles. The team also won two constructors’ crowns and one drivers’ championship with Honda between 1983 and 1987.
“We (Williams and BMW) have a valid contract for 2006,” team boss Sir Frank Williams recently said. “Anyway, I’m not really worried. There are also other engines available.”
Cosworth, Toyota and – most promisingly – Honda, who supplied Williams in the ’80s, have been discussed as potential suppliers to Sir Frank, who said of the six-year BMW collaboration: “Our time with Honda and Renault was considerably more successful.”