Great anticipation surrounds the start of the 2003 FIA Formula One World Championship at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne next weekend. Adding to the traditional intrigue that greets a grid of new race cars is the wholesale amendment over...
Great anticipation surrounds the start of the 2003 FIA Formula One World Championship at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne next weekend. Adding to the traditional intrigue that greets a grid of new race cars is the wholesale amendment over the winter to the regulations that govern the sport. The only certainty is that the race weekend will be one of the most unpredictable starts to a new season in recent memory.
The BMW WilliamsF1 Team will be race-debuting the FW25, a race car that is substantially different from its recent predecessors. Powered by a new engine from BMW, the P83, the powertrain test programme began on September 18th 2002, and was supplemented by an extensive system and chassis programme after the launch of the new car on January 31st, 2003. After a comprehensive test programme at various venues in Spain, the pre-season preparation comes to a close. While the team is cautiously optimistic about its potential, only Sunday March 9th can answer the many questions about the new rules and the relative performance of the teams.
Juan Pablo Montoya:
"I start the season with a great deal of optimism. We have been testing a lot during the winter and have arrived at what I believe is a good stage of preparation."
"I do think though that whatever each team has done over the winter, nothing really tells you where you are until the first GP weekend, and this season, the new rules will add some more uncertainty. I like the idea of one-shot qualifying."
"Last year in Melbourne I finished second and this result gives me a positive feeling about returning to Australia. It would be great to improve on last year's result, of course, but I will be quite content to build my performance race by race this season, and make sure we improve each GP right the way to the end of the season."
"The Albert Park track is pretty unique, and quite unlike any other race track during the year, and importantly, is very different from anywhere we have tested during the winter. Australia in is a great country and it is a very good place to have the very first race. I can't wait to get started."
"I don't think it has ever been so difficult to predict the outcome of a season's opening race. I think the consequences of the rule changes will have a more decisive effect than which team has the fastest car."
"I genuinely have no idea who will be ahead. All I know is that we have been working very hard on our car in order to make it as competitive as possible. We are in good shape, but it will take time until we have developed the full potential of the new chassis. Regardless, I am happy that the season is finally starting. I always look forward to Australia and to Melbourne and I really like staying in the city, even if it is only for a few days."
Sam Michael (Chief Operations Engineer WilliamsF1):
"Australia will be an exciting race for everyone, especially due to all of the rule changes over the winter. They will certainly present us with a challenge. Add to this the usual pre- season tension with every team wanting to know how good a job they have done with their cars, and I am sure the first race will not disappoint."
"Melbourne is a street circuit with low grip. It is predominately a combination of slow and medium speed corners but with two high speed sections that must be considered in the setup of the car."
"Maximum downforce is used with a set up biased towards providing good traction. Now that we have to race the same set up as we use in qualifying, we will face some hard decisions on which way to go. The other key factor in Melbourne is engine power on the Albert Park circuit which is important to be able to run the high wing levels."
"Michelin have done an excellent job over the winter on dry and wet tyre development. By regulation, they can now supply only one specification of wet tyre instead of three."
Mario Theissen (BMW Motorsport Director):
"The fact that we have managed to test the BMW P83 quite early on the test bench as well as in the car enabled us to undertake a very intense winter test programme. The P83 is an entirely new engine, which should once again set the benchmark in F1 for power, weight and centre of gravity."
"We are currently concentrating our efforts on the reliability of the engine, which has become a more important consideration due to the new rules. In Melbourne we will, for the first time, have to run the same engines in the race which have been extremely stressed in qualifying. This makes extraordinary demands on the engine, the effects of which are still very difficult to calculate. Because of the late introduction of this rule, we are developing an understanding of the implications of the regulation change on the test bench, as well as on the car during testing."