F1 2006 – BMW Sauber

F1 2006 – BMW Sauber

BMW Sauber Launch - 2006In a bid to retain some of the heritage of the teams past, BMW have decided to keep the teams old name for this year, which means that whilst Peter Sauber will not be seen leading his privateer crew with his customary cigar, his name will remain for another year at least.

The German car makers bought Sauber last year after a rather tumeltous relationship with Williams as their engine provider. Now they have split with Team Willy to go it along as a constructor, led by Mario Thiesson and the brilliant engine gurus at BMW. This is a big move for BMW, as they have been praised in the last few years as having one the best engines on the grid. Certainly one the most powerful with rumours hinting at 900bhp plus. But now they must also build a chassis to hold the power plant, and the car company enters a new era in their illustrious journey in motorsport.

The team did well in keeping Nick Heidfeld, as he proved himself to be a reasonably capable driver at Williams last year. It is often said that Sir Frank Williams knows how to pick them (Jones, Hill, Villeneuve (in his day), Frentzen, Webber…) and Heidfeld put on some good performances last year in the fledging car. He also has a vast knowledge of the BMW engine, having done a lot of testing in 2005. He should have a good run this year, and may even throw in a couple of shock results to boot. The team won’t be on winning form for a few years yet, but if he can stick with them, then he should become a grand prix winner soon.

Jacques Villeneuve remains with team during the transfer, but I get the impression it is only because of the legally binding contract he had with Sauber. Villeneuve didn’t really impress last year, certainly in the first half of the season. Jacques made numerous excuses, and for sure also had some bad luck. But we shouldn’t forget that he is a world champion and in my opinion he should have adapted to the car sooner rather than later.

Villeneuve’s experience should be an asset to BMW, but I can’t help but be reminded of his attempts at BAR when they first took to a Formula One circuit. To say it didn’t quite go as planned is an understatement, and I cannot help but think that Villeneuve doesn’t seem to commit himself as much as he should. Maybe I am wrong, but he just seems a bit too laissez-faire. He won the 1997 title, but only because of an unreliable Mercedes in Hakkinens McLaren. If it wasn’t for these failures, Michael Schumacher would have beating Villeneuve fair and square. I honestly feel that Villeneuve is a little over-rated and a little under-commited to his employers. But then again, maybe he has learned a thing or two from past experiences, and maybe he will do wonders for BMW Sauber?

BMW Sauber is an exciting addition to the Formula One grid, and whilst they may not make it to the podium for a couple of years, I am sure they will be a force to be reckoned with and will be the future of F1 along with Toyota and Honda.

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