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BMW reveals that there is life after F1
BMW reveals that there is life after F1
Posted By: James Allen  |  06 Dec 2009   |  11:08 pm GMT  |  24 comments

BMW announced its motor sport plans for for first year after its withdrawal from Formula 1 this weekend. It is based around its ongoing challenge in World Touring Cars and its GT programme in the 24 hours classics, Le Mans and Spa. There is also a strong commitment to the young driver programme. The motorsport department will be led by former BMW Sauber F1 team principal Dr Mario Theissen.

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This type of racing is very much core business for BMW, which has what you would call patchy history in F1. As an engine supplier it won with Brabham in the 1980s, and Williams in the early 2000s, but F1 has never really been at the heart of its strategy. And for that reason, like Toyota, it never seemed a very convincing – or convinced – participant, unlike Mercedes or Renault.

To read about its plans for the first season of life after F1, it all makes perfect sense except that what is missing is the top step of the ladder. It’s all very well seeking out and nurturing the best young driving talent, but they will want to drive in F1 and BMW can only take them down a tin-top route. In terms of media coverage, F1 is light years ahead of all the other series and they will notice that. But you can run a decent WTCC campaign for less than 5% of the budget of the F1 team and the WTCC is all about manufacturers, whereas it was clear that after their attempts to take over in F1 and dictate terms, they were no longer welcome.

Mario Theissen is an ambitious man and although this kind of programme is core business for BMW, he will miss the bright lights of F1 and the rarified life lived by team principals.

“I am pleased that we are able to offer our fans an attractive motorsport programme in the first year since our withdrawal from Formula One,” he said. “In production car racing, BMW has enjoyed countless triumphs throughout the course of its long racing history – whether with close-to-production touring cars or imposing GT sports cars. We want to follow on from this success in 2010, in both the World Touring Car Championship and the ALMS. In addition, our programme will include works entries at 24-hour classics for the first time since 2005. Promoting junior racing drivers remains an important pillar of our activities: Formula BMW Europe is once again a permanent feature in the general Formula One programme,” meaning that the Formula BMW races will still be part of the F1 support schedule.

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Excellent post werewolf. I share your thoughts on this. Manufacturers have always provided great engines to f1 over the years. Who car forget the early ford years, the turbo era, Honda and Renault etc.

It is a shame to see BMW duck out as they are a sporting brand. I’d personally like to see touring cars back to the full power cosworth days, m3s etc. Much more entertaining than watching a lot of honda civics and seats.


WTC? Hardly global advertising. It’s a backwater. Mind you, with the right advertising and imaginative support from the FIA . . .

A backwater it will remain.

But the ACO series, that’s a different matter.

My belief is that it will only be at GT level, at least initially, but even so it might generate some interest from other manufacturers.

But it is a shame to see BMW move out of F1. The BT54 was a classic. Beautiful to look at.

Their 1500bhp qually engines, and from a stock block, will remain a class apart.

It is probably a sensible move. With all but one manufacturer leaving (if one believes what is said about FIAT non-involvement) then there is little for them. There would appear to be more return on investment available in Le Mans and other sports car events.

The hope is that, in moving onto endurance racing they do not marginalise the privateers. I’d hate to see the likes of Ginetta being unable to compete because of escalating costs.


‘Mario Theissen is an ambitious man and although this kind of programme is core business for BMW, he will miss the bright lights of F1 and the rarified life lived by team principals.’

I think you are being quite diplomatic James.


Like Werewolf here, as someone who has met Dr. Thiessen couple of times in F1 paddock and more importantly in Formula BMW paddock in the US and Asia, I have no doubt that with F1 behind him, he will take BMW’s Motorsports programme to new heights. The fact that I have seen him take time out of hectic F1 calendar and visit Formula BMW paddock and spend time with the talent there speaks high volume about the Man. While the other series may not have all the hype and the hoopla surrounding F1, I would like BMW to succeed in LeMans and some more constructors on current F1 grid in LeMans as well. LeMans is technically very very challenging and racing weekends more intense, unlike F1 which currently is nowhere near its glorious past, but still encashing on that past. Its time the myth around F1 be debunked and sooner that happens better….


What I find interesting is that, except for Mercedes, manufacturers no longer view F1 as a worthwhile investment even in a cost-control era. Instead, they seem interested in WRC, WTCC, endurance, NASCAR (for us in North America), etc. Picking up on Werewolf’s comment, it would appear that manufacturers may have returned to their traditional role and that the last decade was an exception to the rule. If so, a green F1 might be a bust — especially if it seems like what was tried in endurance racing two decades ago.

I have to say that I am still waiting for a good explanation why F1 is too “costly” even when made “cheap” — the cost-benefit or other logic used by manufacturers, sponsors, promoters not backed by governments, etc. A possible article for you, James?


Ah yes. The so-called “re-alignment of our racing duties to better propel our intricate business strategy in order to……”

If you have bad seasons or make bad decisions as a manufacturer then this is discussed in a board meeting or an extraordinary board meeting (*shakes head), then you either pull out or shuffle management of the F1 team and possibly spiral further into the ground.

If you have bad seasons or make bad decisions as an independent team, you then work on the next season and reinforce optimism for the team to get better results. Steer a steady course as they say.

I am slightly concerned over the Mercedes takeover of Brawn GP but at least with Ross it starts with the right people. Manufacturers come into the sport, try to run their own team and then leave with their tails between their legs when they don’t succeed. It’s so pathetic to watch.


BMW back in Le Mans? Does that mean we might see Peugeot v Audi v Aston Martin v BMW in LMP1? Exciting prospect! Or they just considering gt1/2 categories?

Hope they considering challenging the top dogs in LMP1. As far as Touring cars are they not downsiZing their operation in WTCC? Is this really in line with their new strategy?


BMW aren’t supportive of the current WTCC regulations, where the rules are adjusted during the season to try and ensure equality between the cars.

Reducing Manufacturer backing is a way to show the WTCC they will pull out if things don’t start going their way. The grid itself won’t look to different in 2010 (in terms of BMW presence) as a lot of independents already run BMW cars. Plus Seat are set to reduce works support and it’s Chevy’s turn to win the championship. 2010 in my opinion is very much a holding year for BMW Motorsport.

DTM are freezing development of existing cars for the next two years whilst they try to decide new rules and get manufacturers involved, I guess BMW would be interested if they can agree on rules that work. An amalgamation of the WTCC, DTM and GT (Japan & others) racing could be BMW’s long term plan.


Still a great pity that that they have left both F1 and the BTCC where they formed a good percentage of the grid one way or another.

I have to say that after F1 the BTCC is by far the most interesting and exciting to watch.


Can we expect a return to green Formula 1 in 2013?


yes, looks that way


First of all, having met Mario Theissen a few times and liked him, I wish him well for the future. That said, I agree with James that BMW’s 2010 strategy will seem small fry after his high profile and reasonably successful F1 adventure. A safer career bet, perhaps, than Sauber.

I maybe in a minority here, or perhaps a different generation, but I started my F1 love affair in an era when manufacturers went rallying, saloon car racing and the very ambitious raced in the endurance classics. F1 was the domain of the pure racing specialists: Vanwall, Cooper, Lotus, BRM and, yes, Ferrari, to who road cars were merely a means to an end.

F1 did not become the global success it is because of the manufacturers, it was the profile the sport had attained that attracted them. Their passing is no more than another changing of era and, to be honest, I shall not really miss them or the corporate management they brought with them. F1 will continue and new legends will be built.

Paige Michael-Shetley

“I maybe in a minority here, or perhaps a different generation, but I started my F1 love affair in an era when manufacturers went rallying, saloon car racing and the very ambitious raced in the endurance classics. F1 was the domain of the pure racing specialists: Vanwall, Cooper, Lotus, BRM and, yes, Ferrari, to who road cars were merely a means to an end.”

I agree with you, but I think manufacturers have contributed positively as engine suppliers. Ford, Renault, BMW, and Honda have all been excellent in this regard.

Also, I do think Mercedes has a special place in F1 history and has contributed very positively to F1. The W196 silver arrow is one of the, if not the greatest car in all of F1 history. And one can’t really argue with their record as an engine constructor for McLaren in the last decade and a half.


I agree absolutely – on both points.


I’m with you on this, Werewolf. I’ve always thought that the other disciplines made much, much more sense for the factories — from marketing to R&D — than F1 ever could.

Porsche, feeling the costs unjustifiable even in the 1960s, quit F1 long ago to concentrate on sports-endurance racing. And to well known, spectacular effect. BMW has won LeMans. Toyota has come close. Even Ferrari used to place more emphasis on its endurance racing program than the F1 team. The Ferrari mystique was built as much by the success of the Testa Rosa, the 250SWB and 250GTO, the 250 and 275 LMs, 330Ps, 512s and the 312Ps no less than its GP victories. Back in the day, the Aston-Martin/Ferrari, Shelby/Ferrari, Ford/Ferrari and Ferrari/Porsche wars (to say nothing of the contributions of Matra, Alfa, etc, etc, so forth) were as compelling, often more so, than anything in F1.

But, broken record warning (just saying that shows MY age), I’m convinced that Bernie and Max “encouraged” the other manufacturers to abandon these traditional disciplines in favor of F1, pretty much over the past decade.

Yup. It is the end of era. Who knows? With the resource restriction agreements, maybe there will be enough money around to see factory Ferraris battling BMW, Porsche and Toyota at LeMans. Let us hope.


Indeed. Thoroughbred F1 racing specialists and increased manufacturer involvement in sports cars. Everybody wins – again!

There is no point in F1 being regarded as the pinnacle of motorsport if it has stripped bare the other branches. Healthy alternatives are a good thing, not a hindrance.


Rallying may be a possibility for BMW too, you never know


Prodrive Mini Cooper maybe????

Hans joergen Stroem

not a bad idea


Rallying is almost certainly a very strong possibility for BMW what with the rumours of prodrive constructing a race spec Mini for them in time for next season. Could WRC be on its way back to the popularity it enjoyed back when Colin McRae drove for Subaru?


I think they’re too entrenched in their RWD ethos though? I cant really see them competing in WRC and there aren’t any high profile 2WD rally championships.


To add to my post, there was of course a fantastic second generation of F1 racing specialists, including Brabham, McLaren, Tyrrell and Williams. Enough said!


And yet BMW in fact have reduced the number of manufacturer backed cars for WTCC in 2010 from five to two.


It’s just a slight translation error: What he said in the German version of the press release is that Formula BMW will continue running as a support series on F1 weekends.

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