I was lucky enough to be in the Paddock Club and the private Williams-BMW suite at the Canadian Gran Prix recently. I had conversations with Mark Webber,Hans Stuck, and Mario Thiessen.
(1) None of them had any enthusiasm for the standard shift.
(2) Dr Thiessen did not seem to be too sure about a manual being ultimately available although he is purely on the F1 side.
(3) Mark Webber said that the car is staggeringly fast and very much likes the SMG. He did day it was a bit clunky in traffic at low speeds, but was clearly very enthusiastic about SMG. He also said that you have to be very careful with it becase the car is going faster than you think at times ,and you have to be alert. He has an M5 on order.
(4) Hans Stuck was one of the greatest BMW sports car drivers ever in his day, and had extensively driven the M6 on the Nordschleife.He felt that he could have won Le Mans in this car had it been available ten years ago. He loves the M6.
Its interesting that three people who are in the know and who could doubtlessly drive rings around somebody of my competent but not competitive ability were so clearly behind the SMG option.
It changed my opinion. I am going SMG.