With a new and revitalised driver line-up, Mark Webber and Nick Heidfeld will launch the BMW WilliamsF1 Team's 2005 Formula One campaign in Melbourne on Sunday March, 6, the first of a 19 race championship which will conclude in eight months time...
With a new and revitalised driver line-up, Mark Webber and Nick Heidfeld will launch the BMW WilliamsF1 Team's 2005 Formula One campaign in Melbourne on Sunday March, 6, the first of a 19 race championship which will conclude in eight months time in China.
For Mark in particular, his BMW WilliamsF1 debut will be especially poignant at his home race, where in 2002 in his debut Formula One race he delighted the home crowd by claiming a stunning fifth place, and grabbing the attention of the Formula One paddock.
Since launching the FW27 chassis and the BMW P84/5 engine, the BMW WilliamsF1 Team has completed 25,370 test kilometres on three different tracks, generating an impressive pre-season reliability record. Michelin too have moved forward significantly with a one-race, harder compound tyre achieving long run lap times roughly comparable with the best times achieved by shorter life tyres last season.
"Clearly Melbourne is a very special race for me as I'll be competing in front of my home country. It's always a great experience and the party atmosphere around Albert Park is amazing. I hope we can give the crowd something to cheer about by getting the new season off to a good start."
"I feel I always drive pretty well at Melbourne, it's a track I quite enjoy, but it's always a tough race in terms of reliability, I've had two non-finishes in the last two years but finished fifth in my first race there. I would love to improve upon that result this year."
"Being a street circuit, Melbourne provides a good challenge for the drivers. There'll be a lot of other categories racing over the course of the weekend which means the track will be relatively clean for the Formula One cars which is always good news."
"Australia will be the first race under the new regulations and everyone is going to learn a lot from having to look after the same set of tyres for both qualifying sessions and the race, that's going to be very demanding for the drivers and the teams."
"I'm expecting it to be a very close fight at the front and it would be great if we could come away from the first race with some points in the bag which we could take onto Malaysia and the rest of the season."
"I've just finished a very busy period of testing and I'm really looking forward to the first race. I have reached one of my targets by joining a top team, now I want to work on my track performance. The track in Melbourne is nice and demanding for the drivers. At the start of the weekend it will offer only a small amount of grip but, as the weekend progresses, this will change significantly."
"We proved reliable during winter testing, and this could be a decisive factor in Australia. The balance on the FW27 is generally better than that on the FW26, and for Melbourne we will be getting some new aero parts in order to improve its downforce. Australia is my favourite holiday destination, so it is great that we are flying out a couple of days in advance to acclimatise."
Sam Michael (Technical Director, WilliamsF1):
"Melbourne is one of the most exciting races for everyone because we all want to know where everyone stands with their new cars. This year will be particularly interesting due to the rule changes. Albert Park is a street circuit, which implies low grip, while the layout is a combination of slow and medium speed corners but with two high speed sections."
"As with most circuits now, Melbourne requires maximum downforce settings, particularly with the rule changes over the winter that reduced front and rear downforce levels. The car's set-up leans towards giving good traction out of slow speed, something that is more difficult to achieve with the new cars. The number of braking events from speed means this circuit is hard on brakes."
"This year will see a change in race strategies due to the two qualifying sessions where half of the grid position is taken from a low fuel session and the other half from a race fuel session. This means the effect on lap times of adding race fuel is halved and therefore teams will tend to run longer stints during the race."
"We have been working hard over the winter on long endurance runs with the tyres to ensure we have enough data to make the correct compound choice. The new rules mean that one set of tyres must last for both the qualifying sessions and the race. This means the target has shifted towards a stronger race tyre, rather than a qualifying tyre."
"We have put a lot of effort into preparing our two new race drivers, Mark Webber and Nick Heidfeld, for the race starts which has involved a lot of practice and analysis of data during testing."
"With all the rule changes, there is sure to be a large change in aerodynamic and engine performance among the teams during the first four or five races as everyone will be on a steep learning curve. After that, it will come down to the normal test of which team can develop the hardest and fastest during the season."
Mario Theissen (BMW Motorsport Director):
"Following the end of winter testing, the anticipation for the start of the season is increasing day by day. Everyone in the team wants to know where we stand and can't wait for the race in Melbourne. The past few months were really a race for the engineers who had to react to the extensive rule changes in a very short period of time."
"For BMW, the goal was to achieve an engine that would last two race weekends. This is four times the duration which we had to achieve in 2003, and therefore a huge challenge for the engineers. We also have to complete qualifying and the race with just one set of tyres. Reliability will therefore be a deciding factor for success in Melbourne, and probably for much of the first half of the season."