Interview with BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen ahead of the German Grand Prix Q: Mario Theissen, do you regret the lack of opportunity to test due to the ban until the Hungarian Grand Prix? Mario Theissen: No, we certainly aren't ...
Interview with BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen ahead of the German Grand Prix
Q: Mario Theissen, do you regret the lack of opportunity to test due to the ban until the Hungarian Grand Prix?
Mario Theissen: No, we certainly aren't twiddling our thumbs. We haven't put our feet up either in Munich or in Grove. By far most of the BMW Motorsport workers are not directly affected by the test schedule anyway. Only ten of our over 200 employees belong to the test team. This detail demonstrates that it's business as usual for most of the staff during the break in testing. As far as engine development is concerned, only specific tuning operations, measurements and occasional endurance tests are carried out.
The lion's share of engine development takes place on the test benches in Munich. Of course, it's quite a different story if we're talking about developing race cars and tyres. Most of that kind of testing is carried out on the test track. That's why it's a good thing that we've taken a big stride forward in that respect before the break in testing. I take my hat off to WilliamsF1 for this effort to catch up when working under the stress and pressure that comes with the active race season.
Q: What progress has been made on the BMW engine for 2004?
MT:: We're well on schedule. Last year saw the engine for the next season started up on the test bench for the first time on 31 July. This year it sprang into life a few days earlier. This is the most exciting point in the season for the engineers designing the engine. Just as last year, everything ran smoothly for the first test run.
Q: To what extent did the ruling that the same engine has to be used for the entire race weekend exert an influence on development?
MT: This new factor exerted a very substantial influence. The regulation effectively doubles running time from 400 to 800 kilometres. This means that each individual part has to be designed to be more stable. That affects the design, selection of materials, and manufacturing processes. The fact that in 2003 we were already having to compete in the second qualifying session and the race with a single engine was excellent experience for the P84.
Q: Are there any cost-savings to be found from these changes?
MT: Definitely not as far as development is concerned, but there are certainly savings to be made in racing and testing simply because fewer engines are built over the season.
[The next question was missing]
MT: The tyres constitute the last link between the vehicle and the road. As such, they play an extremely important role. When we were living in a world of monopolies, this has had virtually no effect between the different teams. However, the heat of a competitive situation between two tyre manufacturers and the regulation allowing tailormade tyres presents a very different situation. It's truly amazing to see just how much lap times can be improved by the tyres. However, the best rubber mixture is no good at all if the rest of the package with chassis, engine and driver isn't capable of achieving victory.
Q: Will you miss your colleague Gerhard Berger?
MT: I still find it a pity that he is hanging up his spurs at the end of September. But I can understand why he's doing it and I respect his decision. We remain in contact on virtually a daily basis. He was heavily involved in the contractual negotiations right up until the agreement was signed with WilliamsF1. And even now, he certainly hasn't disappeared off the scene. We have developed a close friendship over the course of a number of years of working together. As far as the activities that he carried out are concerned, he's right when he says that the timing is appropriate. The initial phase is now behind us. The team that we set up together now has a good structure and has significant potential.
Q: How do you rate the opportunities of the BMW WilliamsF1 Team for the remaining five Grands Prix?
MT: Generally speaking, I believe that we're currently witnessing the most exciting Formula 1 season for years. The last eleven Grands Prix were won by seven different drivers and three teams have the opportunity of winning the constructors' title. As an automobile manufacturer, this is naturally extremely important to BMW. We're currently ten points behind leaders Ferrari. A double victory like the two recent achievements rewarded us with 18 points. I don't anticipate that the end of the season will be dominated by a single team. I believe -- and hope -- that the 2003 season will remain exciting to the wire.