Interview with BMW's Mario Theissen

November 21, 2004

BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen reveals that he has been massively impressed by the BMW WilliamsF1 Team's fighting spirit.

Q: Mario, neither you nor Frank Williams have concealed that the 2004 season didn't run quite the way you had expected and hoped for. What gives you the confidence that the team will be more successful in 2005?

Mario Theissen: Two factors in particular: Over the course of the 2004 season, we have been able to fight back and improve the car so much that we could take a second place and even a victory in the final rounds. This proves the substance and the strength of the team and underlines that it never lost its motivation. Factor two: Both we and WilliamsF1 have started to develop the car and engine for the 2005 season very early on. The development is making good progress, and I'm confident that our new package will enable us to make a major step forward.

Q: Has it been a big team achievement to make it back to the front end of the grid over the course of the 2004 season?

MT: This return to competitiveness was the result of a huge effort. On the one hand we had to smoothly execute the regular racing business, on the other we were busy developing the 2005 car and engine. But due to the situation, we also had to find the time for a major improvement to our current package. This was a test our team never had to undergo in the past. I'd like to remind you that WilliamsF1 has carried out two major changes to the aero package: the new sidepods that were introduced at Magny-Cours, and then the return to a more conventional front from the Hungarian Grand Prix. Furthermore, there were further measures taken for every single race. I'm highly appreciative of this effort as it demonstrates the team's motivation.

Q: Have you been happy with the performance of the BMW P84 engine?

MT: I was extremely happy with the BMW P84. We have made three steps to cope with the new challenge represented by the fact that the 2004 engine had to cover twice as many kilometres as its predecessor. At first it was all about building a reliable engine that was able to cover the required distance. Our next goal was to be able to deliver the maximum revs, not only over a qualifying lap but over the entire race distance. From Barcelona, we were able to rev to nearly 19,000rpm during the race -- even in the highest gear, something quite remarkable in Formula One. The third step was to focus on the performance development. With hindsight, I believe that the BMW P84 has once again set the benchmark in Formula One when it comes to the sum of its characteristics, performance and reliability.

Q: The rule changes for 2005 and 2006 have caused much discussion. How do you assess the FIA's measures?

MT: We have to deal with two different packages, with the first coming into force for the 2005 season. The engine mileage will be doubled once again. The second package concerns the 2006 season that is supposed to be contested with a massively revamped engine technology. By introducing these measures, the FIA wants to realise three goals: to reduce the costs, to improve driver safety and to spice up the show. We are supporting all these goals, with the cost reduction being the most important factor, from our point of view. Yet, we don't agree with all the FIA measures. We are of the opinion that not every measure is useful to realise the aforementioned goals.

Q: Such as the move to eight-cylinder engines for the 2006 season?

MT: Yes. A switch from ten to eight cylinders will result in the development of a completely new engine concept. At the same time, the teams will have to develop new chassis. From our point of view, this will lead to a cost escalation rather than a cost reduction, as each new concept causes a cost push. Therefore, we are anything but delighted with this measure. But we support the test reduction, as this will be vital when it comes to reducing the costs.

Q: Have these measures been necessary to keep Formula One in its current format alive?

MT: May be they don't represent the life-line, but thanks to these measures, Formula One is definitely moving in the right direction now. Currently, we are covering eighty percent of our mileage while testing and only 20 percent during the race weekends. This means that 80 percent of the on-track action takes place 'behind the curtains'. We therefore,support a strict test reduction, in particular during the season. And we also support all measures that will spice up the race weekends. In response to this we are ready to contest more races per season.

Q: Next week, the team will start its winter test programme. What will be the main focus during the first tests?

MT: At Barcelona, Mark Webber will be testing one of our cars for the very first time. This test will be vital for both him and our team. For him it will be crucial to adapt to the car. At the same time, he and the engineers and mechanics will have to focus on their interaction. Antonio Pizzonia will be our second driver during the Barcelona tests, and he is a well-known factor to our team. Obviously, we will test and develop technical components. On the engine side, we will use parts from next year's power plant, and we will also test certain development steps for the 2005 chassis. We will also carry out tyre evaluations.

Q: Every team is keen on signing fast drivers. Which other abilities should a BMW WilliamsF1 Team driver have?

MT: It's about pace, about the experience you need to set up a car, and obviously you also have to have what is needed to prevail in a race and to use the car's potential for points, podium results and race wins.

Q: What are the BMW WilliamsF1 Team's goals for the 2005 season?

MT: We most definitely won't lose sight of our ambition to win the FIA Formula One World Championship, as this is the reason why we are competing in the pinnacle of motor racing. Currently, I can't say if it will be realistic to talk about this goal next year. Only the first races will reveal our competitiveness for the 2005 season. Under the new regulations, and with new drivers and a new car, we want to return to our former level of competitiveness.


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