Just after nine o'clock this morning in Valencia, the BMW Sauber F1.06 was unveiled before more than 500 journalists and guests in the futuristic Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (CAC).
This afternoon the car will make its debut at the Circuito de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo. Testing will continue up to and including 19th January, during which time the track is reserved for the exclusive use of the BMW Sauber team. Between 23rd and 26th January the team will test in Barcelona.
In his function as BMW Motorsport Director, Professor Mario Theissen, who also directs the BMW Sauber F1 Team, said: "We have worked hard over the last seven months. We've driven forward the integration of the two locations, got an interim car up and running, signed up the drivers, concluded contracts with our major partners Petronas, Intel, Credit Suisse and O2 along with other sponsors, and negotiated 90 work contracts for new staff. That's not bad as an interim progress report. But we are not under any illusions: we have a long road ahead of us. 2006 is a year of transition, and so would be premature to declare any sporting objectives. The main thing is that everything is pointing in the right direction."
According to Theissen, success can only be achieved with a fully integrated team and all-encompassing procedures: "In our first season we will mainly be gathering experience. In 2005, Sauber came eighth in the Constructors' World Championship. That is our starting point. From there we aim to work our way up as quickly as possible. You can't do that overnight, needless to say. It requires patience and endurance. We have both." He goes on: "For the BMW Group, Formula One acts as a high-tech lab and a technology accelerator. With its dynamism, premium image, sporting challenges and demand for technical innovations, Formula One chimes in perfectly with BMW's brand values - including driving pleasure. And there's no other sporting event that generates so much attention worldwide on such a regular basis."
The plans for expansion include boosting the workforce in Hinwil by more than 100 new staff, many of whom will be reinforcing the aerodynamics department. Theissen: "The wind tunnel is outstanding and we want to run it on a multiple-shift basis as soon as possible." As for the expansion plans for new offices and development and production facilities, planning permission is expected in spring of 2006. In parallel with this, the networking of the two locations - Munich (responsible for powertrain and electronics) and Hinwil (chassis and race deployment) - is being driven forward along with an intensive development programme for 2007. By the end of that year all these measures will be fully implemented.
After 13 years in his role as Formula One team principal, Peter Sauber has retired from the operational side of the business. In Valencia he appeared for the first time in his new role as a consultant to the team.
They've known each other for a long time, they have both driven for Sauber before, they both live in Switzerland - but never before have they been team-mates. Together, drivers Nick Heidfeld and Jacques Villeneuve have a combined experience of 250 grands prix.
Heidfeld made his Formula One debut at the start of the 2000 season. From 2001 to 2003, he drove for the Swiss racing team. Two second places, which he gained for the BMW WilliamsF1 Team in season 2005, are his best results so far. At another grand prix in 2005 he took pole position. The man from Mönchengladbach, who became father to a daughter in July 2005, looks back on 98 F1 races. "I'm really looking forward to the new season and the new team. I know most of the members from past years, of course," says Heidfeld. "Besides, I can get to Hinwil by car in quarter of an hour, which is also an advantage. As a racing driver one is naturally impatient when it comes to seeing success. But we have to stay realistic. For me the most important thing is for us to work hard and make steady progress."