Every team goes through a continuous development process, from one season to the next, from old rules to new, but for BMW Sauber there was the additional job of developing a new team from two parts. BMW headquarters in Munich has to work hand-in-hand with Sauber's base in Hinwil but BMW motorsport director Mario Thiessen explained that it's not as complicated as some might think.
BMW, of course, has the experience of previously working with Williams, so a dual operation is not new to the German manufacturer. "We are used to handling projects over various locations," Theissen said at the launch of the BMW Sauber F1.06 in Valencia. "As long as you are able to integrate all of the efforts in a perfect way."
"There is a general project manager (Walter Riedl) and he makes sure that all the efforts are aligned between Hinwil and Munich. On top of that we have a data exchange between the two locations. We have a common database; everything that is designed and developed is accessible from both locations at the same time. As soon as there is something new it is put into the database and is available to the other place as well."
Hinwil remains the headquarters for chassis development while the powertrain, including the engine and gearbox, comes from Munich. "We don't see the two locations as conflicting," Theissen added.
"It's fully integrated and we have a programme that includes both factories to spread the work. Even if the powertrain comes from Munich, we still have people in Hinwil to cope with transmission issues, car, race and test operations, so you cannot really talk about a split operation."
The BMW P86 V8 engine started its life in May last year. "In F1 things tend to change week after week and it's the same on the development side," Theissen explained. "We had the first engine on the dyno at the end of May 2005 and on the track in July it was already a different engine; development is continuous all year."
"The engine that we have today is still distant from what we will have in Bahrain in two months time. With technology we have to make use of every hour of every day and night up until the first race."
The change from a V10 3 litre engine to the 2.4 V8 was not something that Theissen was very keen on. "I was not in favour of the V8 engine because the original aim to cut costs was not achieved," he commented. "It was quite different from just cutting two cylinders off a V10, although some people thought it would be like that."
"The V8 is a whole new concept -- if you look around you can see every engine manufacturer is very busy trying to make this engine reliable and to get it ready for the first race. It's been a huge challenge and I think we could have done very well with a restricted V10, saving a lot of money and achieving the other targets at the same time. But we have the V8 rule and we want to be successful with the V8, so there's no point in looking back, we have to make the best of it."
So what is the best that BMW Sauber can make of it? Although BMW is building on an existing team it's still a new beginning and nobody is expecting instant success. Sauber finished eighth in the constructors' standings in 2005 and BMW Williams fifth, so there's still some way to go before challenging the top teams is possible.
"I think it would not be realistic to say we will win a race in 2006 but I certainly hope we can get as close as possible," Thiessen said. "You can be sure we will be ready when the chance is there but you cannot plan for a race win. You can plan the performance of the car and then you have to look at what the competition does, and then you have to be there when the chance is there. So, no predictions!"