Topics: Monaco Grand Prix, BMW-Sauber
May 23, 2007
As the Monaco Grand Prix approaches, Formula One teams are already making their preparations for the most prestigious Formula One race. The fifth race of the 2007 Formula One season is scheduled to be held at the Circuit de Monaco on the 27th of May. One of the teams making a bid for the top spot is the BMW Sauber although they are currently trailing teams McLaren Mercedes and Ferrari.
The team has so far had four fourth place finishes at the four races this season with Nick Heidfeld recording the team’s first three fourth place finishes at the Australian, Malaysian, and Bahrain Grand Prix. At the Spanish Grand Prix, it was his teammate, Robert Kubica, who secured the fourth place finish behind Felipe Massa of Ferrari, and Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso who are both from McLaren.
For the Monaco Grand Prix which has the narrowest track in any race this season, it is said that a car’s power is not enough to gain a win. Skills and the set up of the car play a major role in the outcome of the race. That is why BMW Sauber has put in efforts to prepare the car for the demand of the track in Monaco. Willy Rampf, the technical director of the team, says that traction plays a major role in the race due to the nature of the course. He explained that: “Monaco is a circuit you simply can't compare with any other. It's always got some surprises up its sleeve. The latest team rankings can easily be shaken up here. Maximum downforce is important. Greater downward pressure takes precedence over efficiency, and coming out of the many slow turns demands good traction above all.”
Knowing the demand that the track will ask of the Formula One cars on raceday, BMW Sauber has already made significant changes to their cars to give them better traction. “It is also crucial that the car responds with absolute precision and predictability, because the tiniest of errors will mean hitting the crash barriers and the end of the race. The car will go to Monaco with aerodynamic modifications, and we are using a front axle specially developed just for this race to ensure there's enough steering angle in the tight turns like the former Loews Corner,” explains Rampf.
Aside from preparing the cars for maximum traction, the team also spent time to fix the gearbox problem that prevented Heidfeld from finishing the Spanish Grand Prix. “We managed to get to the bottom of the gearbox problem in Nick's F1.07 in Barcelona before the race day was over, and corrective measures were already being applied during the test in Paul Ricard,” says BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen. “We have also worked through Nick's botched-up pit stop and learnt the lessons for any future incidents.” Meanwhile, team owner Peter Sauber has this to say about the pit stop incident: “Obviously it is a shame that Nick was unlucky there. If you take your time to analyze the pit stop, however, one has to admit that these things can happen. Unfortunately, we can't change it anymore.”
Sauber though is elated by the performance being shown by their young driver Robert Kubica. The driver is the first Pole to drive a Formula One car and at the Spanish Grand Prix, he certainly shows why he deserves that distinction. Sauber has this to say about the team’s performance so far and their four fourth place finish: “It would be great if it stayed this way. At the beginning of the season, we didn't expect to be able to finish four races in fourth place. McLaren and Ferrari, the two teams ahead of us, have four drivers between them, so you always have to leave one of them behind.”
For his part, Kubica is focused on the task at hand and shares his thoughts about the most prestigious race of the season. “From a driver's point of view the Monaco Grand Prix is something really special in the Formula One calendar,” the young driver says. “There's very little room for error and you're driving at the limit virtually the whole time. You can't afford to slip up on these narrow streets. I've raced in Monte Carlo in the World Series by Renault, but this year it will be an experience for me to appear there for the first time in a Formula One race. In 2006 I drove on Friday at the GP, but not very much because of technical problems.”
He also echoed Rampf’s thoughts about the importance of traction at the next race. “For the first time since the start of the season in Melbourne, high downforce is required again, and that's another reason why I'm looking forward to Monaco. It's going to be a real challenge and I can't wait to see how well we do. In the past I've always managed all right on city circuits.”
Meanwhile, Nick Heidfeld, whose car suffered from a gearbox problem, is looking forward to continue what he had started for the season at the Monaco Grand Prix. “The ratio of narrowness to speed simply defies description, and it's something I really enjoy,” he said. “Two years ago I came second in Monaco. Last year we had a fault during qualifying, which meant I started from 16th, but still managed to pick up two championship points by finishing seventh. It goes to show that the key thing in Monaco is not to make any mistakes.” His car’s gearbox may have failed at the Spanish Grand Prix but other components such as the BMW coil springs and other suspension parts did not falter. These components are important to maintain good traction.