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Old 03-03-2006, 08:41 AM
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BMW Sauber F1 Team - Bahrain GP - Preview

BMW Sauber F1 Team - Bahrain GP - Preview
Press release, 03/03/2006

Bahrain Grand Prix
10-12 March 2006
1st of 18 World Championship rounds

Munich/Hinwil, 3 March 2006. The big day is fast approaching: the Formula One World Championship season is about to take off - and with it the new BMW Sauber F1 Team. Drivers Nick Heidfeld (GER), Jacques Villeneuve (CAN) and Robert Kubica (POL), who as test and reserve driver will be at the wheel of the third BMW Sauber F1.06 in free practice on Fridays, are all poised in the starting blocks.

BMW had announced a major shift in its Formula One involvement on 22 June 2005. 262 days later, on Sunday, 12 March 2006, the first BMW-run Formula One team will celebrate its premiere.

17 January saw the roll-out in Valencia of the first BMW Sauber F1.06 powered by a BMW P86 V8 engine. Since 8 February, the second new chassis has been undergoing testing. The BMW Sauber F1.06 has completed 20 days of testing in Barcelona, Imola, Jerez and Valencia. All three drivers have piloted the new car, clocking a total of 9,950 test kilometres.

Nick Heidfeld:
ďBahrain is hosting the curtain-raiser for the first time. Thatís something very special, and I think it will be reflected in the atmosphere of the event. They say ticket sales are high. Whatís special about the circuit is quite simply that itís in the desert. It means the track surface is always very sandy and dirty at the start, which results in very little grip. Lap times only improve gradually. Record temperatures such as the 42 Celsius we had last year are probably not on the cards for 2006, so the race wonít be quite such a strain.

The Bahrain circuit is an average to high-speed track. It demands high aerodynamic efficiency and a good engine for the long straight. We did a lot of testing over the winter and I feel pretty confident. Iím desperately looking forward to my first race after a long gap and I canít wait to see what the competition is like. Itís hard to make any predictions, but my guess is that Renault and Honda will be in the lead to start with, possibly followed by McLaren and Ferrari, and then a group of closely bunched teams. We will probably be in with that group.Ē

Jacques Villeneuve:
ďBahrain is one of the hottest races of the year, and on top of that the first race is always the hardest one physically. So for sure it will be tough for the drivers and for the cars. Some teams have been testing on the Bahrain track recently, which means that they will have a big advantage. The track itself is fun and not too physical muscularly. We will cope with the heat, we are ready for that.

We have done a lot of winter testing, much more than one year ago, which is very positive. However, itís time to start. Iím really looking forward to the first race, because this is what itís all about.Ē

Robert Kubica:
ďIím looking forward to a very, very interesting weekend. It will certainly be a steep learning curve for me, but it also means attending a race for the first time since 1995 without actually taking part. I know ten of the 18 grand prix circuits Ė all the European ones plus Sao Paulo. That means Iíve got three new circuits lined up right from the start. So far Iíve always managed to learn the circuits easily. I only know the Bahrain track from television and computer games, which I really enjoy, although they hardly teach you more than the track layout.

Iím really looking forward to my new task and will do everything I can to provide the team with valuable information. Iíll be learning a lot, not just in terms of the car and driving: I will also experience how the team operates on a GP weekend.Ē

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director:
ďSince the starting shot was fired for the new BMW Sauber F1 Team, eight months have passed. In this short development time we have been working very efficiently. We have integrated the Munich and Hinwil sites, got the expansion project under way, signed up our drivers, found strong partners and sponsors, got an interim vehicle up and running and then the BMW Sauber F1.06. After an intensive winter testing programme, our drivers have given the car the thumbs up. The engineers are also convinced that a major leap has been made compared to the previous year. We can say that things are looking good at this stage of development. What our achievements so far will look like on the race track we donít yet know. We arenít expecting any miracles to happen; we just want to make the most of our possibilities and advance step by step.

In terms of the technical regulations, the switch from V10 to V8 engines is the biggest change. Along with all the other engine manufacturers, that is going to keep us on our toes beyond the start of the season. In the first grand prix races in particular, reliability will play a crucial role.

From a commercial point of view, Formula Oneís move to the Middle East is a welcome one in particular for BMW as a premium manufacturer. In 2005, BMW recorded a growth in sales of around 25 percent in Bahrain. The whole team is looking forward to Bahrain and being able to take first stock.Ē

Willy Rampf, Technical Director Chassis:
ďDuring our winter test drives, we notched up almost 10,000 kilometres with the BMW Sauber F1.06. Now things are getting quite exciting because we all want to know how we measure up to the competition. On the Saturday after qualifying in Bahrain we will have a first important indicator. The new regulations, which allow for tyre changes again, will place a far greater focus on preparations for qualifying. Last year it was tyre consistency over the entire race distance that was crucially important; now performance in qualifying has returned to the forefront.

Robert Kubica will play an important role as our number three driver. On Friday morning he will already be able to make the first comparisons and feed us valuable information with regard to tyre choice. In Bahrain we will be driving the car in hot temperatures for the first time, which will put the hardware under considerable strain. With the return of tyre changing, the race will once more present a bigger challenge for the team as a whole. That includes the strategists, who will again have far more freedom in plotting the race tactics thanks to the rule changes. Whereas in 2005 lap times speeded up towards the end of each stint, we will now be seeing the best lap times immediately after the pit stops to pick up fresh tyres. That opens up new possibilities which will inject the races with an extra dose of excitement.Ē

Facts and figures:
Circuit/Date: Bahrain International Circuit/12 March 2006
Start time (local/UTC): 14:30 hrs/11:30 hrs (CET 12:30 hrs)
Lap/Race distance: 5.412 km/308.238 km (57 laps)

Winner 2005: Fernando Alonso (Mild Seven Renault F1 Team), 1 hr 29:18.531 min

Pole position 2005: Fernando Alonso (Mild Seven Renault F1 Team), 3:01.902 min (aggregate of 1st and 2nd qualifying)

Fastest lap 2005: Pedro de la Rosa (West McLaren Mercedes), 1:31.447 min on lap 43

Lap record: Michael Schumacher (Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro), 1:30.252 min (2004)

History and background:
This year the desert state of Bahrain plays host to the World Championship curtain-raiser for the first time. 2006 sees the third consecutive Formula One event held at the circuit in the city of Sakhir south of the capital Manama.

Bahrain has already caught a whiff of Formula One in 2006. After several teams had completed their test drives, the ďYalla Bahrain!Ē festival was held on 24 February Ė complete with air show and fireworks. A variety of racing cars paraded along King Faisal Highway, Manamaís main embankment. Among them were two Formula BMW cars, one of them driven by local hero Mohammed Al Bahrana. The cars came from the BMW Performance Center that opened here in January 2005. Here, instruction courses for aspiring young Formula drivers are held, while it also serves as a centre for BMW Driver Training for road cars. In December 2005, Bahrain played host to the first Formula BMW World Final.

The extensive, state-of-the-art complex of the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) covers an area of 170 hectares and was designed by German architect Hermann Tilke. Construction time was 16 months and costs ran to 150 million US dollars. The project was supported by Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al Khalifa, Bahrainís crown prince and a keen motor racing fan. He is also President of the Bahrain Motor Federation.

70,000 cubic metres of concrete and 8,500 tonnes of steel went into building the circuit, along with 82,000 tyres and 5,000 metres of FIA fencing to secure the track. The circuit holds 50,000 spectators, with the grandstand alone accommodating 10,500. There are generous transport links to the track with exemplary signposting.

Bahrain has five circuit variants, the longest being the GP course at 5.412 km. The maximum rising gradient is 3.6 percent and the maximum downward gradient 5.6 percent. There are 15 corners (six left-handers and nine right-handers) and the start/finish straight is 1,090 metres long.

Bahrain has been an Arab Emirate since gaining independence from the British in 1971. The kingdomís head of state is the Emir, who governs through a cabinet. With a geographical area of 665 square kilometres, the country is spread across 36 islands off the coast of Saudi Arabia. The capital city of Manama is on the main island of Bahrain (578 square kilometres).

Oil has been pumped in Bahrain since 1932, but resources are dwindling. The processing industry as well as rich gas fields and international banking have taken on a growing economic role.

The Emirate has a dry desert climate with very mild winters and hot summers. Last year, the Bahrain Grand Prix was the hottest race of the year with air temperatures hitting 42 degrees Celsius on the Sunday. Temperatures should be lower during the 2006 GP, which takes place four weeks earlier.
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