Malaysian GP: BMW Sauber preview

Following a good start to the season in Australia and another four-day test, the BMW Sauber F1 Team is looking forward to round two of the 17-race 2007 FIA Formula One World Championship - the Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix on 8th April in ...

Following a good start to the season in Australia and another four-day test, the BMW Sauber F1 Team is looking forward to round two of the 17-race 2007 FIA Formula One World Championship - the Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix on 8th April in Sepang.

In the sweltering heat the BMW Sauber F1 Team has an eventful week ahead of it leading up to the race which is held outside Kuala Lumpur. Here, in the home country of premium partner Petronas, being close to the fans will play a particularly prominent role. On Saturday and Sunday (31st March/1st April) the team will visit the city of Malacca. On Saturday the F1 drivers and their teams will all meet up in the historic old town. Sunday will see demo runs on the Malacca trade fair site, which will include Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica in the BMW Sauber F1.07.

Over the course of these two days and the following week, there will be numerous interview opportunities for the media and autograph signing sessions with those taking part. The drivers will take time out to play with school children, visit BMW dealers and - at 15.00 hrs on Tuesday (3rd April) - pose for photos with the BMW Sauber F1.07 in front of the imposing Petronas corporate headquarters, the world's tallest twin towers.

The climax of the GP lead-up programme will be on Wednesday with the opening of the BMW Sauber F1 Team Pit Lane Park, which has been set up at the far end of the park behind the Petronas Twin Towers. A press conference will take place there at 11.00 hrs, and the media are also welcome to attend the public opening that evening.

The weekend will see test driver Timo Glock take the F1.07 for a spin in the Pit Lane Park, while junior drivers will also be in action in Formula BMW cars and stunt rider Chris Pfeiffer is promising some acrobatic thrills and spills with his BMW motorcycle.

It is no accident the home race of Petronas was chosen as the venue for the official BMW Sauber F1 Team photo, with the team assembling in the pit lane on Friday from 09.35 - 09.45 hrs.

A demanding circuit, tropical heat and the risk of unpredictable monsoon-like downpours will be the main concerns occupying the minds of the team in their preparations for the race. The four-day test in Sepang was positive. Kubica drove on the first two days, while Heidfeld picked up the baton on days three and four. Test and reserve driver Sebastian Vettel will get his first taste of the track on Friday morning ahead of the GP - weather permitting, of course.

Nick Heidfeld:

"So far I've never really had a problem with racing in the heat. But it is good to take some time to acclimatise to the conditions, especially as the high humidity takes a bit of getting used to for us central Europeans. I arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, and our test was very helpful. I think we're in pretty good shape for the race and hope that we can get both cars to the finish this time."

"I've experienced some incredible downpours before in Sepang. Driving in the rain always holds an element of risk due to the lack of visibility - even more so here, where the rain is far from normal. When the heavens open, everything disappears under water in no time. But I'm still a fan of wet weather. It's a lot of fun hanging on to 700 horsepower in these conditions. Either way, I've always got on quite well in Malaysia. And that includes 2006, even though a problem with the car cost me fifth place shortly before the finish."

"For me, one of the nice things about my job is the travel, and I've got to see quite a lot of Malaysia. Petronas was a Sauber partner in my earlier spell with the team as well, and came up with new ideas each year. For the Malaysian people, the state-owned company is like an icon. They greet us with such pride, because we are taking the company name around the world. It's really impressive."

Robert Kubica:

"This will be my second visit to the Malaysian GP, but the first time I will be lining up for the race. I'm really looking forward to it. The circuit is very interesting, but has a very different character to Melbourne. It was good to have the chance to test in Sepang, so we could find out how the car behaved in the heat, how the temperatures affected the tyres, and so on. And the test was also very useful for me personally to acclimatise to the conditions."

"I hope that we will be as strong in Malaysia as we were in Australia. After retiring from the race in Melbourne, the most important thing for me is to finish this time around and to collect some points."

Sebastian Vettel:

"I have never been to Malaysia and am looking forward to getting to know another new track. I've heard a lot of good things about the circuit. It has some fast corners and the high temperatures also make driving here very physically demanding. But I'll be arriving a week beforehand and have enough time to get used to the climate. For the team, I hope that we are also strong in Malaysia after our good start to the season in Australia."

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director:

"We put in a solid start to the new season in Melbourne and made an early case for ourselves to be the third-strongest team on the grid. That was really good to see and gave the motivation of the whole team an extra boost. We're heading in the right direction and will stick to the same path. We've analysed the shift problem in Robert's car and implemented the relevant measures."

"After the grand prix at the Nürburgring, Sepang is our second home race. In 2006 we saw for ourselves the charismatic presence of our premium partner Petronas in Malaysia. It was a fantastic experience to witness the euphoria with which our team was received in this country."

"The events at the foot of the Petronas Twin Towers made a truly magic impression and are sure to pull in the crowds again this year. I'm looking forward in particular to the debut this year of the Pit Lane Park in the shadows of the Petronas Twin Towers. This will bring Formula One right up close to the fans and attract a lot of people."

"The BMW Group has stepped up its involvement in Malaysia in recent years as part of its Asia strategy. Sepang is an important grand prix for both companies - and the race is sure to provide a keenly fought contest."

Willy Rampf, Technical Director:

"Melbourne was a good start for the BMW Sauber F1 Team, and we can be happy with our competitiveness in the first race of the season. But the particular characteristics of the Albert Park circuit mean you can't read too much into how things went there, and we know that. I would say Sepang is a lot more representative."

"Sepang has a really interesting mix of different corners, and these ask a variety of questions. The slower sections require good grip for accelerating out of the turn, whereas high stability is essential - particularly in the combination just before the back straight."

"In addition, the course calls for good aerodynamic efficiency, as you have to be quick along the two straights here to make the most of the overtaking opportunities. The tyres - the rears in particular - come in for a lot of punishment, as the asphalt is quite abrasive and temperatures are normally very high. That will represent one of the main challenges for the engineers and have a significant influence on the outcome of the race."

-credit: bmw sauber

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Nick Heidfeld , Robert Kubica , Timo Glock , Sebastian Vettel , Mario Theissen , Chris Pfeiffer
Teams Sauber