BMW Sauber F1 Team - GP Australia - Preview

BMW Sauber F1 Team - GP Australia - Preview  
Filed under:
Motorsport, BMW
on 03/25/2006

Source: BMW Group

The Formula One circus can look forward to rather cooler conditions in the next grand prix of the year following the sweltering heat of the first two races of 2006.

Normally the season curtain-raiser, the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne has been given a later slot in the calendar this time around and will take place on 2 April as the third of 18 world championship races.

Since last weekend's Malaysian GP, the BMW Sauber F1 Team has been preparing for the race in Australia with testing at the Paul Ricard circuit in France. Work has focused on making further improvements to reliability and building on the race pace the cars have recently shown.

Nick Heidfeld:
"This season's Australian Grand Prix will certainly have a rather different feel about it. To start with, the race has been put back due to the Commonwealth Games, so there won't be that extra buzz you get when it's the first race of the season. And because it's later in the year, it won't be as hot as usual either - the race is a month later than normal and Melbourne will be getting really quite autumnal. The Albert Park circuit is nice to drive, but also a demanding one for the drivers. Because it isn't a permanent race track, there isn't much grip at the start of the weekend. The situation improves with each lap as the cars lay down extra rubber. Australia is my favourite place on the Formula One calendar to travel to and I tend to fly out to Melbourne a few days early to get used to the time difference."

Jacques Villeneuve:
"It's always a pleasure to travel to Melbourne, especially if I have bit of time there to relax before the race. I enjoy racing at Albert Park - I like the circuit and am looking forward to the GP. BMW have got a lot of things going on around the grand prix and that in itself will make it an interesting weekend for me. As for our performance, I think the two points we collected in Malaysia show that we can be pretty competitive - and that was psychologically important for the team. Added to which, BMW has proved with my engine that they can react extremely quickly when a problem comes up. There is a very constructive atmosphere within the team. Having said that, the circuit in Australia is another that's very heavy on engines, and this will be my second race with the engine I used in Malaysia. So we'll have to exercise a certain amount of caution during the weekend."

Robert Kubica:
"Melbourne is the third circuit in a row that will be totally new to me. However, my performances in Bahrain and Malaysia have given me confidence that I can rise to the challenge on basically any track. On the Friday in Sepang I drove more or less an entire GP race distance in extreme climatic conditions without experiencing the slightest problem. Up to now the team have been happy with my work, and my top priority, of course, is to collect as much information as possible in Melbourne in order to help Jacques and Nick in their preparation for the race. I've never been to Australia but I've heard a lot of good things about Melbourne, so I'm really looking forward to this third race of the year."

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director:
"We'll experience a different side to Melbourne this year. The Australian Grand Prix isn't the first round of the championship this season and the race has been put back a month into the Australian autumn. The city always gives Formula One an extremely enthusiastic welcome and I'm sure we'll all be won over by the atmosphere again in 2006.

As far as the demands on the engines are concerned, the nature of the Albert Park track and the expected weather should make for pretty benign conditions. After the blistering heat of Bahrain and Malaysia, it's unlikely we'll be faced with any extremes demanding special preparation for the engines this time. The high number of engine changes made by the teams so far is evidence that the development time allowed for the new V8 powerplants was simply too short. We are now working all-out on reliability. As far as basic speed is concerned we're just about where we want to be, and during the weekend in Melbourne we'll be looking to build on the good race pace we showed in Malaysia.

The Australian GP is the last in the first batch of overseas races in 2006. After that comes the first extended break of the year, followed by the beginning of the European season at Imola on 23 April."

Willy Rampf, Technical Director Chassis:
"Following our good race performance in Malaysia we are confident that we can be similarly competitive in Melbourne. The character of the Albert Park circuit is very different from Bahrain and Sepang. It's a 'stop-start' kind of track and the layout is similar to Imola, which is why we held our last round of pre-season testing there. The layout of the circuit means that brakes are placed under serious loads in Melbourne and we will therefore focus heavily on braking stability when it comes to car set-up. Another typical feature of Melbourne is that the track is still fairly dirty on the Friday and grip only really improves after a significant number of laps.
The last race showed how incredibly tight the field is this year. That's why it will be extremely important to get the maximum out of the cars in qualifying."

History and background: On the Monday morning (27 March) before the Grand Prix, Jacques Villeneuve will already be in action at the Sandown International Raceway in Melbourne. Singly as well as jointly with BMW chief instructor Geoff Brabham, he will meet the drivers of the BMW Celebrity Challenge, held as part of the GP support programme, and serve as a taxi driver in the BMW M6. For further details contact Nadine Giusti, BMW Australia, mobile +61-418-536582.

On Wednesday (29 March) at the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club, a number of Formula One drivers will meet up with Australian tennis greats John Fitzgerald, Wally Masur and Jason Stoltenberg for the Pit Stop Tennis Pro-Am charity tournament. Heidfeld and Villeneuve will also be supporting the cause by playing tennis with its initiator Mark Webber from 18:00 to 20:00 hrs. All proceeds will go to charities in aid of sick children and cancer support. For further details contact Richard Chapman, sparkimpact, mobile +61-417-393237.

Last year saw Melbourne host its tenth grand prix. Up until 1995 the Australian Grand Prix had been held in Adelaide. Melbourne is Australia's second-largest city with a population of over 3.2 million. It lies at the eastern end of the continent's south coast and is the capital of the State of Victoria. It is a city with many faces: modern architecture rubs shoulders with historic buildings, and student quarters form a contrast to the business district. This is where the Yarra River empties into the ocean. Melbourne's St Kilda district offers a thriving beach- and nightlife.

Melbourne has lush-green sports grounds and public parks. The Formula One circuit is right in the middle of the city, running through idyllic Albert Park and around its eponymous lake. Compared with modern F1 courses, the pit facilities are on the small side. By contrast with the spacious facilities in Bahrain and Malaysia, here the Formula One Teams - who are generally bereft of their motorhomes at overseas events - have to set up their canteens in the open air and hope the weather plays along.

For BMW, the debut race of its return to Formula One will remain unforgotten: it was the curtain-raiser of season 2000 and saw Ralf Schumacher finish third in Melbourne. A podium place from the word go marked the most successful entry for an engine manufacturer since 1967.

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