BMW in Formula One

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Robert Kubica crosses the finish line to win the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix. This is the only Formula One race that BMW has won as a full work (factory backed) team.

BMW has been in Formula One since the beginning of the World Drivers' Championship in 1950. BMW entered several races in the 1950s and 1960s. Often, they ran using the Formula Two rules. In the 1980s, they built the BMW M12/13 inline-four turbocharged engine. This engine was built for the Brabham team. Nelson Piquet won the 1983 championship driving a Brabham-BMW. BMW also supplied the M12/13 engine to the ATS, Arrows, Benetton and Ligier teams. In 1988, Brabham left F1 for the 1988 season, and BMW stopped its official backing of the engines. Arrows still used the engine with the Megatron name. When Formula One banned turbocharged engines in 1989, the M12/13 could no longer be used.

BMW returned to Formula One in 2000. They made a deal to supply engines to only the Williams team. The engine was a new V10 engine. The engine deal with Williams ended after the 2005 season. BMW then bought the rival Sauber team. The BMW Sauber project lasted from 2006 until 2009. Sauber, a former privateer team, became more competitive. In 2008, Robert Kubica won the team's only race, the Canadian Grand Prix, with Nick Heidfeld finishing second. After the 2009 season, BMW withdrew from F1. They sold the team back to its founder, Peter Sauber.

Entries in the 1950s and 1960s[change | edit source]

Gerhard Mitter was killed as a result of crashing his BMW 269 Formula Two car during practice for the 1969 German Grand Prix.

The early years of the World Drivers' Championship saw private BMW racing cars, based on the pre-war BMW 328 chassis. They were entered in the German Grands Prix in 1952 and 1953. A modified 328 with a rear engine became standard in Formula One in the early 1960s. It was known as the "Heck", the German automotive term for "back" or "rear". This design later found success with the Cooper team.[1]

In 1967 German Grand Prix, BMW entered Hubert Hahne in a Lola chassis powered by an larger BMW engine, and David Hobbs in the Lola with the standard smaller BMW engine. For the 1968 German Grand Prix, Hahne returned and finished tenth, BMW's best result in Formula One to that date. BMW then entered three of its own 269 F2 chassis for the 1969 German Grand Prix for Hahne, Gerhard Mitter and Dieter Quester. Mitter was killed in a practice accident. The remaining BMW team withdrew from the race.[2] BMW left F1 for a number of years.

Engine supplier[change | edit source]

Brabham, ATS, Arrows, Benetton and Ligier (1982–1988)[change | edit source]

Bernie Ecclestone, the team principal of Brabham, signed a deal with BMW for a supply of M12/13 engines in 1980.

In 1977, Renault entered Formula One with a turbocharged engine. After the success Renault had, BMW decided to develop its own turbo engine. BMW announced the new program in April 1980.[3] The engine was based on the BMW M10, a four-cylinder, 1.5 litre, normally aspirated (non-turbocharged) engine designed in the late 1950s. The racing version, the M12, had been successful in Formula Two and other series.[4] The prototype 1.4 litre turbo engine soon developed 600 bhp. It used a single Kühnle, Kopp & Kausch (KKK) turbocharger, Bosch electronics, and fuel injection. This engine was developed into the M12/13, the race engine BMW supplied to five teams from 1982 to 1988.[5]

BMW first made a deal to supply the M12/13 engine only to the Brabham.[5] Testing of the M12/13 started in late 1980. A new car, Brabham BT50 was design for the engine. The new car was not finished until will into the 1981 season. The team's lead driver, Nelson Piquet, tested the BT50 throughout 1981. The car was unreliable until Bosch improved the electronics.[3]

Brabham began the 1982 season with two BMW-powered BT50 chassis. Because of reliability problems, the BT50 was not used at all the races that year. BMW saw their first win in 1982 Canadian Grand Prix, where the cool conditions helped the turbocharged engine. The BT50 was used for the rest of the season. The car was still unreliable, and the drivers only made four finishes the rest of the season.

In 1983, the reliability of the BMW engine was improved. The new Brabham BT52 allowed Nelson Piquet to win the Drivers' Championship. Brabham finished third in the Constructors' Championship. BMW also began supplying its engines to the German ATS team this season. Manfred Winkelhock, the only driver for the team, was unable to score any points.

For 1984, BMW expanded to three teams, supplying the M12/13 to Arrows. In 1985, BMW was back to two teams. ATS had left Formula One. Piquet won one race, the 1995 French Grand Prix. It was the only win for BMW that year.

Benetton was the only other team that was supplied with the M12/13 to win a race.

For the 1986 season, BMW was back to three teams with the addition of Benetton. Benetton had the most success, scoring 19 points, and winning the Mexican Grand Prix. In 1987, BMW only supplied Brabham with works engines. Arrows and Ligier used the "Megatron", a rebadged BMW engine. At the end of the year, Benetton team owner Bernie Ecclestone decided not to compete the following year. This ended the BMW turbo engine. The Arrows team still used the "Megatrons" engine for 1988. They finished fifth in the Constructors' Championship, their best finish in the team's 25-year history.

For 1989, the technical regulations were changed to ban turbocharged engines. During the M12/13 engine's time in F1, the engine had won the 1983 Drivers' Championship and nine Grands Prix. It also took 14 pole positions and set 13 fastest laps.

Williams (2000–2005)[change | edit source]

Further information: WilliamsF1

Williams had been very successful using Renault engines. They won the 1992, 1993, 1996 and 1997 Drivers' Championships. They also won the 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996 and 1997 Constructors' Championships. When Renault left F1 at the end of 1997, Williams needed a new engine. In 1998, the BMW signed a contract to supply the Williams team with engines.

BMW spent 18 months building and testing a normally aspirated, 3.0 litre V10 engine. The E41 engine was ready to race in the 2000 season. The Williams FW22 with the BMW E41 engine was driven by Ralf Schumacher and Jenson Button. Schumacher scored a podium finish in the engine's first race. The team finished the year with two more podium finishes, and third in the Constructors' Championship.

For 2001, BMW designed a more aggressive P80 engine. The engine had a big power improvement. Schumacher and new team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya scored four race wins. For 2002, the team won only one race with Schumacher at the Malaysian Grand Prix. Montoya took seven pole positions, but was not able to win a single race.

The most successful year of the BMW-Williams collaboration was 2003, but still resulted in neither championship being won.

The Williams team was more competitive in 2003. Both drivers won on two time. For 2004, Williams produced the FW26 chassis with a radical nose section. This design did not work very well. Williams slipped to fourth in the Constructors' Championship. Montoya's victory in the Brazilian Grand Prix the team's only win (and the team's final win to date). Both Schumacher and Montoya left the team at the end of the season.

2005 was the final year of Williams using the BMW engine. The team continued to be less competitive. None of the team's drivers were able to win a race. By this time, BMW was upset with Williams. BMW thought the engine was able to win, and the Williams chassis was the problem. BMW offered to buy Williams outright. They wanted to gain overall control of its Formula One efforts. Frank Williams would not sell the team. BMW chose to buy the rival Sauber team instead for 2006 and end its deal with Williams.

BMW Sauber[change | edit source]

Further information: Sauber
BMW Sauber
Full name BMW Sauber F1 Team
Base Munich, Germany
Founder(s) Mario Theissen
Noted staff Mario Theissen
Peter Sauber
Willy Rampf
Noted drivers Germany Nick Heidfeld
Poland Robert Kubica
Germany Sebastian Vettel
Canada Jacques Villeneuve
Formula One World Championship career
Engines BMW P86/9
Debut 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix
Races competed 70
Constructors' Championships 0 (Best finish: 2nd - 2007)
Drivers' Championships 0 (Best finish: 4th - Robert Kubica, 2008)
Race victories 1
Podiums 16
Pole positions 1
Fastest laps 2
Final race 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

BMW bought Swiss team Sauber in June 2005 to form the BMW Sauber F1 Team. The takeover came after BMW's relationship with Williams had deteriorated in the previous months, the partnership ending at the end of the 2005 season. The team was based at Sauber's headquarters in Hinwil, Switzerland and BMW's headquarters in Munich, Germany.

The team scored two podium finishes and came fifth in 2006, its first season in Formula One. This was followed by a second place in 2007 after the McLaren team had been excluded from the championship. Polish driver Robert Kubica took the team's only Grand Prix victory at the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix. Following a poor 2009 season, BMW withdrew from Formula One and sold the team back to founder Peter Sauber.

2006[change | edit source]

For the 2006 season, BMW Sauber signed Nick Heidfeld from Williams to be the lead driver, while 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve had his existing two-year contract with Sauber honoured. Robert Kubica was signed as the team's third driver. The team continued to use Sauber's facilities, mostly for chassis construction and wind tunnel testing, while BMW's headquarters in Munich were responsible for building the new 2.4 litre P86 V8 engine, revised technical regulations forcing a change from the 3 litre V10 formula. This replaced the Petronas-badged Ferrari engines which the team had used since 1997. The Sauber team's existing major sponsors, Petronas and Credit Suisse, renewed their contracts with BMW. The team also announced a technical partnership with technology company Intel.[6] The team's new livery, which was maintained throughout its tenure in Formula One, consisted of the traditional BMW blue and white with a hint of red.

Nick Heidfeld took the team's first podium finish at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix.

Villeneuve scored the team's first points with a seventh place finish at the Malaysian Grand Prix, after Heidfeld retired from fifth with an engine failure late in the race. Over the first two thirds of the season the drivers picked up points with a succession of seventh and eighth place finishes, plus a fourth-place finish for Heidfeld at the Australian Grand Prix. The team ran a radical "twin towers" aero enhancement on the front of the car for the French Grand Prix, which was meant improve the flow of air over the top of the chassis.[7] The parts were promptly banned by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) as they were adjudged to impede the drivers' vision and thus compromise safety.[8]

Heidfeld scored the team's first podium finish at the Hungarian Grand Prix from tenth on the grid. This race also saw the début of Robert Kubica, who replaced Villeneuve after the latter had crashed heavily at the preceding German Grand Prix. Kubica finished seventh, although he was later disqualified after his car was found to be underweight. The official reason for Villeneuve's absence was that he was recovering from his previous accident, but the team later announced that the driver change was permanent.[9] Kubica scored BMW Sauber's second podium finish of the season at the Italian Grand Prix, after running in third place for most of the race and leading briefly during the first round of pit stops. Heidfeld finished in eighth, but set the team's first fastest lap. The team scored a total of 36 points to finish fifth in the Constructors' Championship, an improvement on Sauber's eighth position with 20 points in 2005.

2007[change | edit source]

Heidfeld took BMW Sauber's best result of 2007 with second place at the Canadian Grand Prix.

On 19 October 2006, BMW announced that Robert Kubica would partner Nick Heidfeld for the 2007 Formula One season with Sebastian Vettel taking the test and reserve driver role. Timo Glock was later signed as the team's second test driver.[10] The team launched its 2007 car, the F1.07, on January 16, 2007.[11]

The new car showed promising form throughout winter testing, topping the times sheets on occasions. However, team principal Mario Theissen declared some reliability concerns before the season's opening race in Australia. Kubica retired from fourth place with a gearbox problem, but Heidfeld took over the position and held it to the end of the race. In the early races of the season, Heidfeld and Kubica scored a series of points finishes and established BMW Sauber as the third-fastest team, behind Ferrari and McLaren. Theissen also made the point that the performance gap between BMW Sauber and the two top teams was less than the gap between BMW Sauber and the teams behind it.[12]

The Canadian Grand Prix brought mixed fortunes for the team. While Heidfeld scored BMW Sauber's best result thus far with a second place finish, Kubica suffered a huge crash that resulted in a long safety car period. The media was initially told Kubica had broken his leg, but it later proved that he had escaped with only a sprained ankle and concussion.[13] Vettel took his place in the United States Grand Prix, finishing in eighth place and therefore becoming the youngest driver to score a Formula One World Championship point. Later in the season, Vettel moved teams to take a race seat at the Toro Rosso team.

Kubica returned to racing action at the French Grand Prix and proved his recovery by finishing in fourth position. Over the remainder of the season, he and Heidfeld continued their form to score a total of 101 points, which secured the team second in the Constructors' Championship after McLaren's disqualification. Heidfeld scored another podium finish at the Hungarian Grand Prix and scored 61 points to Kubica's 39, while Vettel's sole appearance produced an additional point.

2008[change | edit source]

The Canadian Grand Prix saw Robert Kubica win his and BMW Sauber's first race.

On August 21, 2007, BMW confirmed its driver line-up of Heidfeld and Kubica for the 2008 season.[14] Their 2008 car, the F1.08 was officially launched in Munich at BMW Welt on January 14, 2008. It made its track debut at Valencia the next day, with Robert Kubica driving. Team principal Mario Theissen set the target of the team's first win.

BMW Sauber started the season well with Kubica narrowly missing out on pole after a mistake in his main qualifying lap in Melbourne. He later retired after being hit by Kazuki Nakajima but Heidfeld finished second. Kubica took second in Malaysia, with Heidfeld in 6th setting the fastest lap of the race. The team's points total of 11 was their largest score up to that time. In Bahrain, Kubica scored his and the team's first ever pole position, beating Felipe Massa by just under three hundredths of a second. The team went on to finish 3rd and 4th in the race, equalling their highest round points total and promoting them to first place in the constructors' championship for the first time.

The team also attained a second place finish in the Monaco Grand Prix with Robert Kubica, beating both Ferraris and only trailing the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton by three seconds.

BMW Sauber's first race victory came in the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix, the team achieving a one-two finish with Robert Kubica's first race win and Nick Heidfeld taking second place. The victory came after Lewis Hamilton collided with Kimi Räikkönen in the pitlane, ending the race for both drivers. Kubica was on a different refueling strategy from Heidfeld, who also briefly led the race before securing the one-two finish for BMW Sauber in comfortable fashion.

After the team's breakthrough win, development was switched to the 2009 season where new regulations come into play. This greatly annoyed Kubica, (who was leading the championship after the Canadian Grand Prix), as he felt they could have had a realistic chance of taking at least one title. The lack of development was reflected with a drop of form throughout the second half of the season, causing BMW to be outpaced by Renault, Toyota and even Toro Rosso (who started the season as one of the slowest teams) by the end of the season. Despite this, Kubica remained with an outside chance of taking the drivers championship until the Chinese Grand Prix, the 17th round out of 18.

In October the team confirmed that they would stick with Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld as their drivers for the 2009 Season.[15]

2009[change | edit source]

The poor performance of the F1.09 chassis contributed to BMW's withdrawal from Formula One at the end of the season.

Although BMW Sauber targeted the 2009 season as the year they would challenge for the title, their start to the season was a disappointment. Kubica was running in 3rd place in the opening round when he collided with Vettel while battling for 2nd place and was forced to retire. Heidfeld then secured the team's first podium of the year in Malaysia, but after 6 races BMW Sauber had collected a mere 6 points, and occupied 8th place in the Constructors' Championship out of 10 teams. A raft of upgrades were set for Turkey, including an improved regenerative braking system (KERS) and a double deck diffuser. While the new diffuser was implemented, the KERS could not be made to fit the new car and both drivers raced without the device. After the qualifying session for the British Grand Prix Mario Theissen announced that the team had decided to halt further development KERS; of which BMW had been one of the strongest proponents, and focus instead on improving the car's aerodynamics. This left Ferrari and McLaren as the only remaining users of the KERS system. In the European Grand Prix at Valencia Robert Kubica scored the team's first points since the race in Turkey.

Following a meeting of the BMW board on July 28, the company held at press conference the following morning in which it confirmed the team's withdrawal from Formula One at the end of 2009. Chairman Dr Norbert Reithofer described the decision as a strategic one.[16] The Formula One Teams Association released a statement in response pledging its support to help the team remain in F1.[17]

On 15 September 2009 it was announced that BMW Sauber had secured a buyer, Qadbak Investments Limited which said to represent European and Middle Eastern interests. However Lotus had been given the 13th and final slot in the 2010 Championship. The team were awarded what was termed a 14th entry, which hinges either on another team dropping out or all the other teams agreeing to allow 28 cars to enter the 2010 Championship.[18][19]

On November 22, Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung revealed that Qadbak's attempt to purchase the team had failed as it did not have the necessary funds. Qadbak turned out to be a shell company with no assets and no investors behind it.[20] On November 27, 2009 it was announced that Peter Sauber would repurchase the team conditional upon the team receiving a FIA entry for the 2010 season.[21] The FIA subsequently granted Sauber an entry on December 3.[22] The team used Ferrari engines in 2010.[23]

The team retained the BMW Sauber name for the 2010 season, despite using Ferrari engines.

References[change | edit source]

Books[change | edit source]

  • Bamsey, Ian; Benzing, Enrico; Lawrence, Mike; Staniforth, Allan (1988). The 1000 BHP Grand Prix Cars. London: Guild Publishing. ISBN 978-0-85429-617-0.
  • Hamilton, Maurice (ed.) (1981). Autocourse 1981-82. Richmond: Hazleton Publishing. ISBN 978-0-905138-17-6.

Journals[change | edit source]

  • Doodson, Mike (November 2009). "Piques & troughs: BMW in Formula 1". Motor Sport 85 (11): 42–51.
  • Straw, Edd (July 2008). "Reaching for the Ultimate Goal". Autosport 193 (5): 32–38.

Footnotes[change | edit source]

  1. Diepraam, Mattijs (May 1999). "The BMW-derived specials that appeared in war-struck Germany". forix.autosport.com. Haymarket Publications. http://forix.autosport.com/8w/germanf2.html. Retrieved 2010-03-27.
  2. Diepraam, Mattijs (June 2001). "The last of the German locals". forix.autosport.com. Haymarket Publications. http://forix.autosport.com/8w/d-locals.html. Retrieved 2010-03-27.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Doodson (2009), p. 44.
  4. Bamsey et al. (1988), p. 49.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Bamsey et al. (1988), p. 50.
  6. "BMW nets Intel sponsorship". news.bbc.co.uk (BBC Sport). 2005-12-15. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/4530750.stm. Retrieved 2008-04-14.
  7. "Villeneuve sets Magny Cours pace". news.bbc.co.uk (BBC Sport). 2006-07-15. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/5180074.stm. Retrieved 2008-04-14.
  8. "BMW ordered to remove nose fins". news.bbc.co.uk (BBC Sport). 2006-07-26. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/5214166.stm. Retrieved 2008-04-15.
  9. "It's the end of the road for Villeneuve". timesonline.co.uk (London: The Times). 2006-08-07. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,5923-2302408,00.html. Retrieved 2008-04-15.
  10. "Glock signed as BMW second driver". Grandprix.com. 21 December 2006. http://www.grandprix.com/ns/ns17888.html. Retrieved 2006-12-21.
  11. "The new BMW F1.07". Grandprix.com. 16 January 2007. http://www.grandprix.com/ns/ns17947.html. Retrieved 2007-01-16.
  12. "Interview with Mario Thiessen". Archived from the original on 22 April 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070422081439/http://www.formula1.com/news/5984.html.
  13. "Kubica escapes injury after crash". BBC. 10 June 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/6739431.stm. Retrieved 2007-06-10.
  14. "Heidfeld and Kubica stay at BMW". BBC News. 21 August 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/6956299.stm. Retrieved 2007-08-21.
  15. Kubica and Heidfeld stay with BMW BBC Sport'.' Retrieved 8 October 2008. Archived 5 January 2010 at WebCite
  16. Noble, Jonathan (29 July 2009). "BMW will quit F1 at the end of 2009". autosport.com. Haymarket. http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/77400. Retrieved 2009-07-29.
  17. Perillo, Simone (29 July 2009). "Statement by FOTA Secretary General". teamsassociation.org. Formula One Teams Association. Archived from the original on July 22, 2010. http://wayback.archive.org/web/20100722081936/http://www.teamsassociation.org/press-release/2009-07-29/statement-fota-secretary-general. Retrieved 2009-07-29.
  18. "BMW F1 team secures Swiss buyer". BBC News. 2009-09-15. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/8256739.stm. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  19. "BMW expects team to race in 2010". Autosport.com. http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/78656. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  20. SonntagsZeitung, 2009-11-22
  21. Pablo Elizalde (27 November 2009). "BMW sells F1 team back to Peter Sauber". autosport.com. Haymarket Publications. http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/80350. Retrieved 2009-11-28.
  22. Noble, Jonathan (2009-12-03). "Sauber secures 2010 Formula 1 slot". autosport.com (Haymarket Publications). http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/80429. Retrieved 2009-12-03.
  23. Jonathan Noble and Matt Beer (24 September 2009). "Theissen confirms Ferrari engine deal". autosport.com. Haymarket Publications. http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/78822. Retrieved 2009-09-24.

Other websites[change | edit source]