As the covers were pulled from the new BMW Sauber F1.09 it became the sixth Formula One car to be unveiled for the coming 2009 season. The team's two drivers Nick Hiedfeld and Robert Kubica pulled back the covers on the new car at the Spanish Circuit de la Comunitat near Valencia.
With the radical new technical regulations, BMW Sauber, in common with other teams, stresses the fact the car is all new. BMW's technical coordinator Willy Rampf explained, "Developing a new Formula One car is always exciting, but this time there was something even more special about it. We really were starting from scratch.
"Because the car differs so significantly from its predecessor, we already started work on the first concept studies in February - two months earlier than normal and before the F1.08 had even started its first race," continued Rampf. "Our aim was to build a car with high aerodynamic efficiency and in so doing claw back as much of the down force as possible, which the new regulations had taken away."
Although much of the development effort last year was ploughed into the F1.09, BMW Sauber still managed to have a successful year. The target set by BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen in 2008 was to win a grand prix. That came about at the 7th round of the season in Canada where BMW Sauber scored a memorable one-two finish, albeit after the Lewis Hamilton pit lane crash incident.
This year the BMW Sauber four year plan outlines the team's expectations to be fighting for the World Championship titles. "We communicated our target 2009 four years ago. We set out a plan aiming at the first points in 2006, the first podium in 2007, to win in 2008, and we then stated that we want to fight for the championship from this year onwards," said Theissen.
"So far all targets have been met, so there is no reason to abandon the final and most important target. We want to fight for the title with the big two other teams and whoever else is up there."
Team driver Kubica is behind the plan 100 percent even after demonstrating some frustration with the lack of development carried out on last year's car in order to boost the chances in 2009 Kubica has put that in the past.
"I will concentrate on this year, sometimes it's very difficult to understand some situations, and everybody has different views. So I accept it," said Kubica.
He added, "Quite a lot of effort and resources went into the 2009 car in the second half of the season, so of course I'm hoping that will pay off with this car, the F1.00. Last year was a good opportunity - maybe not for the championship but to finish a bit higher. Now it's completely different."
Teammate Heidfeld agreed on the team's progress with their set goals, yet expressed concerns on the new rule package for 2009. "It's been impressive with the way achieved our goals in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Normally I would say we would be sure to do it again in 2009, and be in with a fighting chance of winning the title. But all the new rules for next season could potentially create a whole new ballgame. I very much hope, though, that we'll put in a strong performance," he said.
The team does seem relatively well placed to reach this target, they have been testing the 2009 aero package towards the end of last year and were developing the KERS package early as well.
Theissen explained, "It was clear to us that the opportunity to test before the end of the year was very valuable. Meanwhile, the change to the sporting regulations placed a severe restriction on testing. We were very happy with the work with it."
One possible fly in the ointment is the admission that the team may decide to not race with the KERS system at the first race in Australia as Theissen so aptly put it, "KERS is still the most challenging and exciting part of the new package to me.
"Looking back to when we started more than a year ago on KERS, that time was pure research. Then we went through a stage I would call pre-development. Now we are in the development stage."
Despite being one of the first teams to test the KERS system BMW Sauber are realistic and open enough to admit that the new technology is still being worked on.
Theissen admitted, "We are still not ready to race, but if I look at what progress we have made in last 12 months, it's amazing. We have learned so much. We are still pushing hard. We are not ready yet. I am sure we will be ready at some point, I don't know whether we will be ready for Melbourne."
BMW Sauber however are enthusiastic about the new technology and are against delaying its introduction at the first race of the year. They are also excited about the reduction in spending and regard this as a positive change that will help the team
"We never wanted to become the biggest spending team. We tried to maintain the efficiency of the original Sauber team. That helps us in the current situation. We are well prepared," Theissen said.
The design of the car by the Hinwil-based outfit has been geared towards challenging the front runners.
BMW Sauber managing director Walter Riedl said, "The development of the F1.09 centred on three key areas: aerodynamics, optimum tyre utilisation and the integration of KERS."
Explaining the progress he added: "That's where our focus has been from the outset and where we have channelled the large reserves of knowledge amassed during the course of last season.
"The F1.09 contains the combined expertise of a highly motivated team - one which will be pulling out all the stops to fulfill our ambitious aims once again in our fourth year on the F1 grid."
It remains to be seen if the BMW Sauber mission statement will be achievable. The team did collect 3rd place in the 2008 Constructor's Championship and scored some good results, but much of that was towards the start of the year.
Concentrating the development effort on the 2009 car may still pay off, although with the gains made by Renault towards the end of the year there will be even more competition.