BMW Announces F1 Withdrawal

The board at BMW has today announced the company’s withdrawal from Formula 1 racing, effective at the end of the season.

There have been rumours for some time now that this or that F1 team was withdrawing, most frequently about Renault and Toyota and consistently denied by all parties. Announcements may yet prove forthcoming from other teams.

It is a shame that BMW-Sauber is the next team to jump. Just one season ago they were leading the World Championship. Many observers, including myself, believed at the time that had they not dropped the development of the 2008 car (in favour of the 2009 model) they would have had a good shot at winning either title by the end of the year. As it was, the regulation changes were so great the decision was made to attempt to steal a march on the field by switching development early.

It didn’t work. The 2009 car has not been competitive since the early part of the season and doesn’t seem to be improving relative to the competition, even if it has done so relative to where it was before. You would think they’d switch focus to the 2010 car, as is usual when performance falls short of expectation. That they are bailing out and that it was announced by the higher-ups of the company suggest this one was out of Mario Theissen’s control.

I think this is bigger than one underwhelming season, there has to be more to it than that. The announcement talked about changing their focus towards “sustainability and environmental compatibility”. F1 is not embracing this as much as it should be, with even the token-effort KERS looking like being withdrawn next season under FOTA proposals.

I’m sure the global economy, slow car sales, and of course the whole Mosely affair and the Ecclestone/Hitler comments did not help sell F1 to the board of a German company.

A shame. I always thought BMW-Sauber should have achieved much more than they did, and 2008 should have been the beginning of a competitive phase. It was not to be. Let’s hope a buyout can be arranged, either internally a la Brawn, or from elsewhere.

Hinwil is a top notch facility and the engines were produced in Munich. This is ideal as Hinwil shouldn’t have to be downscaled for any prospective buyer, all they need do is slot in an engine of their choice. Perhaps BMW could even be persuaded to supply engines to the team in 2010. All of this has yet to be decided.

Launch Season: BMW Sauber F1.09

BMW Sauber F1.09

Earlier this week the new BMW Sauber was launched at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, Spain.

Like the other ’09 cars it is a much cleaner design than the ’08 car, although that wasn’t difficult in the case of the 2008 BMW! Also in common with other teams there are fewer sponsor logos on this car. Long-time backer Credit Suisse, who supported the team long before BMW supplied Williams let alone Sauber, have withdrawn their backing. Given the present condition of the banking sector globally this isn’t a huge surprise, it is maybe more surprising that RBS remains with Williams. It also looks like the Intel sponsorship has disappeared. Again in common with most other teams, BMW Sauber insist they remain on a solid financial footing.

On the whole this looks like a fairly ordinary car compared to the more radical designs of the McLaren and Renault, say. The nose is conventional albeit higher than in previous years, there is no engine cover fin, and the front wing is one of the most basic we’ve seen – particularly the endplates.

This team is widely tipped to continual their steady rise in performance and become contenders for race wins rather than picking up when McLaren and Ferrari falter. They need to be wary of Renault who had a resurgence of form towards the end of last year.

BMW are believed to be the most advanced in their development of the KERS system yet are still claiming they may not use it for the first race or two. I’m not sure I believe that.

Here’s a comparison to the 2008 car, kindly set up by BMW:

Sorry if the pics appear slightly fuzzy, I think I buggered up the upload and resizing and I’m not messing around with it any more, it is Friday night…

There are further details at www.bmw-sauber-f1.com/ – though be warned the site doesn’t work well in Firefox.