Following intensive track testing at Valencia, Barcelona, Jerez and Bahrain, the BMW Sauber F1.07 is now set for its first race of the year. The BMW Sauber F1 Team exceeded expectations in its debut season to finish fifth in the constructors' world championship in 2006. The team's aim for 2007 is to record more podium finishes on merit and further reduce the distance to the top of the constructors' standings. Last year, the gap between fifth place and fourth alone was 50 points.
Race drivers Nick Heidfeld (29) and Robert Kubica (22) will be joined at the circuit on Friday mornings by test and reserve driver Sebastian Vettel (19). On the Friday, the teams can now each make use of two 90-minute testing sessions, with a maximum of two cars per team allowed on track per session.
In all, each team has eight sets of tyres at their disposal on the Friday (four of each specification), which must then be handed back. On the Saturday each driver has ten new sets (five of each specification) for the remainder of the weekend. The teams can change engines once again ahead of Saturday practice, with maximum engine speed limited to 19,000 rpm in 2007. The engines have to last for two race weekends, as before.
In the race itself, the teams have to use both specifications of the new standard Bridgestone Potenza tyres. The different specifications will be given markings to allow the spectators to see which tyres each team is running at any time. This strategic challenge adds a further unknown to the mix in the run-up to a season which seems set to provide unprecedented levels of excitement on the back of numerous changes to personnel and equipment.
"Australia is my favourite country on the Formula One calendar to travel to. I flew straight out there with my family from the test in Bahrain to have a look at a few things and get used to the time zone and climate. 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. So it will help that the cars will spend more time on the track on the Friday, as extra rubber will quickly be laid down on the asphalt. We were pretty quick in testing, but unfortunately not that reliable, so for us the most important thing in the first race of the season will be to get to the finish."
"Albert Park is one of my favourite tracks, as it is partly a street circuit. There are also a few run-off areas, and that makes it slightly easier. There isn't much grip, but it is quite bumpy. Conditions improve enormously over the course of the weekend. You have to make changes to the car and understand how it is going to react. I like the circuit a lot, it's a challenge. Tight corners and full-throttle sections follow one after another."
"I've never been to Australia and I'm very much looking forward to being in Melbourne with the team and getting out on the track. The circuit certainly looks interesting. The beginning of the season is extremely important - a lot of things are easier if you get off to a good start. We've shown in testing that we definitely have potential, but we've also had one or two difficulties. Like the team as a whole, I'm just pleased that it's finally time to go racing."
Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director:
"Last year we put in a very good performance in Albert Park, and it would be nice if we had something to celebrate once again on Sunday evening. As ever, it is difficult to make predictions. Our rivals have been generous with praise at times, but we also had a few problems in testing. As always, it is a race against time to get the car ready for the first race of the season."
"We are pleased to see that Melbourne is once again the first race on the calendar in 2007. The race this year will take place two weeks earlier than in 2006, i.e. in late summer rather than autumn. The city will be hungrier for the grand prix again, as this time round it has not just played host to a Commonwealth Games."
Willy Rampf, Technical Director:
"The tension ahead of the first race of the season is always particularly high, of course, because you're waiting to find out how you shape up against your rivals. The last test in Bahrain showed that the performance of the F1.07 meets our expectations, but we'll still only be able to make a reliable assessment of our progress once we get to Melbourne. Added to which, we will have one or two new parts on the F1.07 in Australia, which we hadn't introduced in the last test. I have to admit that my sense of anticipation is even greater than usual."
"Melbourne is a stop-start kind of circuit with high levels of downforce - and that places the brakes under serious loads. We will therefore focus heavily on braking stability when it comes to car set-up. Another typical feature of Albert Park is that the track is still fairly dirty on the Friday and grip only really improves after a significant number of laps."
-credit: bmw sauber