Chinese GP: BMW Sauber preview

The Formula One World Championship 2006 is entering its final stages with just three grands prix to go. After visiting China and Japan on successive weekends (1st and 8th October), the teams travel to Brazil a fortnight later for the final race of...

The Formula One World Championship 2006 is entering its final stages with just three grands prix to go. After visiting China and Japan on successive weekends (1st and 8th October), the teams travel to Brazil a fortnight later for the final race of the season.

The three venues have little in common. The tight spaces of Japan and Brazil contrast with the vast expanses of the Shanghai International Circuit. The facility on the outskirts of China's industrial powerhouse is simply enormous, the track layout imaginative and challenging.

The BMW Sauber F1 Team has seen its F1.06 cars finish in the points in 13 of the 15 races so far in 2006 and has exceeded its own expectations for the season with two podium places. The team warmed up for the races in Asia with a three-day test in Jerez and is looking to put itself in the mix for World Championship points once again.

Sebastian Vettel, who was the third driver for the BMW Sauber F1 Team in Turkey and Italy, will continue in this role for the remaining three races in China, Japan and Brazil.

Nick Heidfeld:

"This is only the second time I'll have raced in Shanghai, as I was injured for the GP last season. However, I found our first year there a great experience. Shanghai is a fascinating city and the atmosphere by the river is particularly special. But it's also full of contrasts. On the one hand, you have the hyper-modern and probably fastest-growing city in the world, while a few meters down the road there is abject poverty and the people don't even have toilets."

"The circuit is very impressive. Although it's so modern, it still has genuine character. The first time I had a look around, it gave me the feeling that it had always been there - it fits in so well. The first corner after the start/finish straight is very unusual. You approach it at high speed and don't lift off on the entry. But then the corner tightens up more and more, forcing you to shift down into second gear."

Robert Kubica:

"I'm really looking forward to the race in Shanghai. This will be the first time I'll have lined up for the BMW Sauber F1 Team outside Europe. I've only ever raced once on Chinese soil, and that was in the former Portuguese colony of Macau. The street circuit there is by far my favourite track. In 2004 and 2005 I finished second there in the legendary Formula 3 race."

"The layout of the Shanghai International Circuit looks very interesting and it is characterised by a couple of very original corners. When I drive it for the first time, I will be able to draw on the F1 race experience I've now built up. It will be my fourth grand prix and I hope it will be a successful one.

"The Chinese mentality is very different from our European way of life, but I have very good memories of my previous stays and I'm really happy to be going there again. I will arrive in Shanghai one week before the event in order to acclimatize not only to the time change and the heat, but also to the surroundings."

Sebastian Vettel:

"When I think of China I think of small people, the Great Wall, cheap electronics, a foreign language, foreign culture and writing which leaves me totally blank. I've only been to Hong Kong and Macau before. In Hong Kong there are sometimes some unusual smells in the air, but it was nice to see the city."

"There is a Walk of Fame like the one in Hollywood, with hand-prints from people like Jackie Chan, and that was fun. Macau is one of my favourite tracks, but I've not yet seen anything of this huge country where so many people live. It would be nice to see beyond the cities.

"The circuit is a new one and looks quite tricky. I have seen a lot of drivers on television making a lot of mistakes. There's a high-speed straight, another straight and a hairpin corner. It will be difficult to find the right braking point. I'm looking forward to gaining a lot of new experiences in China."

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director:

"Our performances in the last three grands prix show that we are in the ascendancy. Nick's third place in qualifying at Monza and the two podium places - through Nick in Hungary and Robert in Italy - are a good deal more than we could have expected in our first season. It's still a new experience for our team to be cheering our own driver on the podium. But it's a great feeling!"

"With three races of the season to go, we're in fifth place in the constructors' standings. That also puts us ahead of schedule, but defending this position will not be easy. The up-coming circuits will present us with fundamentally different challenges from Monza, where we looked in great shape. Now the aim is to take the momentum we've built up with us to Asia, get into the top-ten again in qualifying and pick up points in the race itself."

"The sheer expanse of the Shanghai facility was still extremely impressive on our second visit there in 2005. Handing China a round of the World Championship opened up a new dimension for all the companies involved in Formula One. The Chinese market has huge growth potential for the BMW Group, for example, with business up 36 percent on the same period the previous year in 2005, and by as much as 41 percent in 2006. BMW has its own production plant in China, where the 3 Series and 5 Series are built."

Willy Rampf, Technical Director:

"Shanghai is one of the circuits which places even greater demands on the cars' aerodynamic efficiency through the switch to V8 engines. Its long straights and generous width make the track a nice one for overtaking, as long as you have good straight-line speed. Running too little downforce, however, will loose you time through the predominantly slow and medium-speed corners."

"Over the past few weeks, we've been working particularly intensively in the wind tunnel and will be introducing one or two modifications which should enable us to continue along our positive progress curve. To this end, the third driver will have an important role to play on the Friday in developing a set-up which will ensure both good qualifying performance and consistent lap times in the race itself."

-credit: bmw sauber

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