Posted on December 1, 2008
BMW – World champions 2009? | James Allen on F1 – The official James Allen website on F1

There have been some very positive noises coming out of Munich recently to the effect that BMW has set its goal for 2009 as nothing less than fighting for the world championship. No big deal, I hear you say, teams always come out with that kind of talk.

Well not BMW. Mario Theissen’s team has always been meticulous in setting targets that it believes it can hit. If you read my Theissen interview elsewhere on this site you’ll get more background insight into the way the man thinks. He’s a company man, one who has come up through the ranks by hitting targets, sending memos and doing the right things and he’s been very careful in F1. The partnership with Williams was going well until they started to miss their targets and it was a short step from there to BMW setting up its own team based on the Sauber outfit. Ruthless, but very effective.

Theissen has hit his targets for three consecutive years, which is pretty rare in F1. But they could have done even better and that’s what makes you take them very seriously for next year. I still believe that the BMW team ducked out of the possibility of winning Monaco in 2007, where it made daft strategy choices, which it explained as being safety car based. But I think they didn’t want to win a race too soon and then raise expectations unrealistically for 2008. It had to progress in stages. Where’s the passion, you ask? Well stuff passion, this campaign has been meticulously planned and executed by Theissen, in so far as you can plan for something as chaotic at times as F1. They have also not fallen foul of the FIA in any major way yet.

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BMW – World champions 2009?
21 Responses

  1.   1. Posted By: Alex
        Date: December 1st, 2008 @ 9:27 pm 

    james you can’t seriously be saying that bmw purposefully didn’t win the monaco gp, have you been drinking? ; ). There’s no way any team would turn down a victory if they thought it was in their grasp especially the most prestigious one in the entire calendar. Bmw won the very next race in montreal, they didn’t turn down that little chesnut did they. I understand the point about not wanting to raise expectations but they could easily have managed these, as after all the weather was terrible and helped a lot of the slower teams out (as it tends to do). Kubica was also very much in contention at this stage and although the team probably knew he had little chance for the title there’s simply no way they’d chuck 2 championship points away for such a trivial reason.

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  2.   2. Posted By: Jason C
        Date: December 1st, 2008 @ 10:57 pm 

    BMW fighting for the championship, yes, against McLaren and Ferrari, but don’t forget Renault’s reappearance at the top during the second half of 08.

    Not that I think it will being them into contention at the front, but Honda have also had all of last year to both reorganise according to Ross Brawn’s master plan and develop their new car.

    So although BMW *want* to ‘challenge for the championship’, I’m sure they’ve cunningly got a fair few definitions of ‘challenge’ tucked away that don’t mean one of their drivers finishing first or second, just in case.

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  3.   3. Posted By: Tom
        Date: December 1st, 2008 @ 11:35 pm 

    If the “medals” scoring system is introduced, would BMW’s 2009 targets go out of the window? Winning races for the drivers’ title would require a more aggressive approach than collecting points for the constructors’.

    There again, maybe BMW have the perfect driver pairing to go for both titles – Kubica seems quicker but Heidfeld bags some unlikely results and they both score a stack load of points over a season.

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  4.   4. Posted By: Matthew Villari
        Date: December 2nd, 2008 @ 12:15 am 

    James, do mclaren really expect to start the season behind the front? I know that 2008 took alot out of them, but we’ve seen top teams fight for the championship hard until the end and then still come out with a strong start to next year. Granted, the new rule changes make that more diffcult, but the MP4-24 will be launched on the 16th of January, still reasonably early, and surely, most testing of anything other than the new car is deemed to be not quite as effective as testing the new car itself? I really hope mclaren can start 2009 by winning in melbourne.

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  5.   5. Posted By: Matthew Villari
        Date: December 2nd, 2008 @ 12:18 am 

    Sorry for this double post, but can anyone shed any light on the McLaren KERS system. The teams that ive seen testing KERS or otherwise have major cooling add-ons such as the Ferrari, yet McLaren seem to have no changes whatsoever for cooling or anything? Do McLaren have an advantage in this area with the packaging of their KERS?

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  6.   6. Posted By: Ben Metcalfe
        Date: December 2nd, 2008 @ 7:03 am 

    “Where’s the passion, you ask? Well stuff passion, this campaign has been meticulously planned and executed by Theissen, in so far as you can plan for something as chaotic at times as F1.”

    I think you are right, BMW-Sauber is run with anything but a ‘passion-orientated’ vision. But then that flows down to the fans – because of it I have about as much passion for BMW-Sauber winning the world championship as I have passion when I pay my taxes.

    Theissen is definitely running the ship as an efficient and productive division of BMW but to what cost in terms of fan following? I certainly don’t turn on my TV each race weekend and fly out as far as Singapore and China to watch a team “hit corporate targets”.

    I’m not a fan of Ferrari – but I’ll conceit that they are definitely the most passionate. And that means they’re racers and they’re motivated (to a lesser or greater extent) to put on a show.

    Working to corporate targets and playing political games in companies is what many of us do for our day job, it’s not something I want to sit down and watch on my day off.

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  7.   7. Posted By: Mike C
        Date: December 2nd, 2008 @ 9:20 am 

    I’ve been hearing rumours recently that BMW aren’t that happy with the new 2009 cars especially the ugly rear wing. Christien Klien was quoted as saying it’s the ugliest F1 car he’s ever seen after the initial test. BMW pride themselves on selling good looking road cars, it won’t sit well in the boardrooms of Munich seeing their cars globally advertised as ugly mathematical equation monsters. rather then sleek beautiful racing machines. There’s even talk of BMW hosting a mini race during testing at Jerez to see if the new KERS system and new aero actually makes a difference to the racing. Seems BMW are being very pro-active in their criticism of next year maybe due to not having a huge input in the regulation changes for 09 (Renault, McLaren, and Ferrari contributed opinions, recommendations and guidance). I wonder if any of this is playing on Mario’s mind. That said they’ve hit every target they’ve striven for so far and i’m sure our Teutonic friends will be quick (if not quickest) off the mark in the fly away races until the major teams possibly catch up with upgrades when the 09 series hits Europe.

    I really hope the team get behind Nick Heidfeld more this season, Kubica was most certainly the brightest star last year at BMW but Nick put in some great drives and some great double overtaking moves (Silverstone especially). He deserved to win the team’s maiden win in Canada due to the time and effort he’s put into BMW. I feel BMW’s title challenge will realistically come in 2010. They need to establish themselves as a regularily winning team not reliant on the the front two fouling up. With Rosberg hinting at a future departure from Williams if he suffers another poor season he could be the long term driver investment BMW will look to. Kubica and Rosberg for 2010 WCC with BMW. You heard it here first!!!

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  8.   8. Posted By: NumberTwo
        Date: December 2nd, 2008 @ 10:53 am 

    To the first guy, it was 2007 monaco, not 2008. And although it does look and sound weird in formula 1 world, where winning should be main goal, it doesn’t sound weird with BMW Sauber. They just have a different way of thinking, and as much as i saw, it’s working out for them.

    Heidfeld and BMW in 2009, for the win :-)

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  9.   9. Posted By: jose
        Date: December 2nd, 2008 @ 11:31 am 

    I abslutely understand, when they talk about no passion from the bmw team. Do not forget they are german. Very efficient, absolutely motivated, but nothing like ferrari.
    But do not forget that ferrari was 25 years with a lot of passion, without winning a world championship. So be sure that is a very dangerous team in 09.
    Now that they have a proper driver. If he is not handicaped for his weight, he can sure do it.
    What i do not really understand, was not doing anything in their power to hire alonso. I imagine is the idea he is not a team player. But the world champions never are.

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  10.   10. Posted By: Alex
        Date: December 2nd, 2008 @ 11:37 am 

    Numbertwo

    How would BMW have won the 2007 monaco gp? they started 7th and 8th and only finished 5th and 6th,finishing a full lap behind the mclarens. Surely James is referring to 2008 where Kubica was in contention in the wet weather.

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  11.   11. Posted By: NumberTwo
        Date: December 2nd, 2008 @ 1:29 pm 

    “I still believe that the BMW team ducked out of the possibility of winning Monaco in 2007, where it made daft strategy choices, which it explained as being safety car based.” –> copied from post, that’s why i commented.

    Gotta say I didn’t even think about the race, and now when i recall it, it is probably typo in the post, because alonso and hamilton were way too strong in 2007 there.

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  12.   12. Posted By: christopher
        Date: December 2nd, 2008 @ 3:56 pm 

    If you consider how hard it was for Mclaren to win this years title then the challenge facing BMW is enormous. I think if BMW win three races next year they will be doing extremely well, but i don’t consider them serious title challengers for 2009. The talent, strength and depth at mclaren and ferrari should enable them to quickly recover any development time lost to BMW and their rivals. Honda have proven that switching development programs mid season without the necessary talent and infrastructure is pointless. My feeling is that the big two will still be the big two come the end of next season.

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  13.   13. Posted By: hmm
        Date: December 2nd, 2008 @ 4:11 pm 

    Monaco 2007 – Q2

    1 F. Alonso McLaren 1:15.431
    2 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:15.479
    3 R. Kubica BMW 1:15.576 (only +0:00.145 )

    Then they decided to go for a 1 stop strategy… :D

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  14.   14. Posted By: Finn
        Date: December 2nd, 2008 @ 4:31 pm 

    They might have the car, but not the drivers.

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  15.   15. Posted By: speedmerchants
        Date: December 2nd, 2008 @ 4:37 pm 

    JA writes: BMW had a very nimble car in 2007, with a very good front end and the feeling going into Monaco was that they could be a real threat, could even get pole and control the race. They were quick, but then opted to put loads of fuel in the car in Q3. I quizzed Willi Rampf on this and he said it was because they thought there would be a safety car in the first stint of the race. Fair enough, but to do it with both cars…?

    This didn’t make sense to me so I kept on digging around in the weeks and months which followed and as a result of various conversations, arrived at the conclusion that they had not wanted to raise expectations too soon and a win at that stage of the game would have meant that the expectation would be of fighting for the championship in 2008.

    As it turned out, they were in the hunt this year around Canada time. They got the win (which had been the goal for 2008) and started thinking about 2009. Draw your own conclusions. I admire Theissen in many ways, he really gets things done. My point is that so far this has not been an emotional exercise, but having seen many championship fights close up, it is going to be intensely emotional and I’m looking forward to seeing how they deal with it.

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  16.   16. Posted By: Alex
        Date: December 2nd, 2008 @ 8:22 pm 

    oh right, i do apologise. How very srange, for me that’s crazy. Surely a win would have put them in the shop window for sponsorship etc. Anyway i have a funny feeling renault will be at the front next season, Alonso’s had a season to bed in and now it’s back on ; ).

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  17.   17. Posted By: evil g
        Date: December 2nd, 2008 @ 10:21 pm 

    Passion is for losers. All that matters is winning, and Mario Theissen seems to be brilliant at what he does.

    A quick note to Mike C – nobody that has seen a BMW X3 will ever believe that BMW pride themselves on selling good looking cars.

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  18.   18. Posted By: Alex M
        Date: December 3rd, 2008 @ 1:00 pm 

    Looking at the Crystal Ball you would have to say BMW are very much on course to join Ferrari and McLaren in 2009, but then again, there are the dramatic rule changes that, as far as I can see, will throw a curved ball or ten into the established order. Renault’s largely unexplained performance gain in the end of 2008 is interesting too, will it continue or are they shaping up to be a big casualty of the KERS era ?

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  19.   19. Posted By: Murray
        Date: December 3rd, 2008 @ 8:57 pm 

    Passionless? I don’t think that any team can expect to win consistently in F1 without passion. Twenty-something years ago, Ron Dennis used to talk about McLaren’s expectations as being considered, efficiency-based, calculated, etc, all the same sort of noises as BMW is portrayed as making now. That being said, Ron stated in an interview way back when, that he “felt physically pained if McLaren didn’t win”. If Theissen doesn’t have that fire, don’t expect BMW to stay in F1 if he leaves and/or the successes don’t continue. He probably sells the team to his board using words like efficiency and expectations reached, but BMW’s board turned down being in F1 as a team before, because they didn’t think it would contribute to their corporate image. F1 still doesn’t make the sort of economic sense that it might, it took passion to convince the board that it was worthwhile, and that passion had to come from Theissen. If he did throw Monaco, I think it would have to have been a decision to maintain his company’s commitment, not the wider enthusiast community.

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  20.   20. Posted By: Duncan
        Date: December 6th, 2008 @ 1:58 pm 

    I certainly think in Kubica they have the driver to handle the pressure and also deliver the goods and evidence of this can be seen in the way he staved off Raikkonen for about five laps in Japan with tyres losing grip.

    It was one of the moments of the season for me.

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  21.   21. Posted By: Bart
        Date: October 24th, 2013 @ 9:55 pm 

    In the end their 2009 car turned out to be one of the biggest flops in the F1 history. Who would have though…
    Reading this feels like time tavelling. James, amazing how your blog has grown – plenty more insight, great race report, around 100 comments per article on average (I guess) etc. You don’t realised it until you get to the farthest corners. Well done!

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