Are you thrilled about the upcoming Spain race? What do you expect from the race? If you have got no idea, let the BMW team enlighten you of the forthcomingâ€¦
Nick Heidfeld, the German Formula One auto racing driver for the BMW Sauber factory team, said: â€œIâ€™ve been on the move a lot during the break since Bahrain – in Leipzig, Munich and Hinwil, in Monza for filming work, at the Nurburgring Nordschleife and in Barcelona for the test. At the Nurburgring I did my inspection lap in a Formula BMW car.â€
Heidfeld, 30, noted that it was a funny feeling getting back into a junior racing car, but there is no comparison between the car and the single-seaters he started out in. He added, â€œIâ€™ll be at the wheel of the Formula BMW car once again on the Wednesday before the Barcelona race, this time in Valencia as part of a three-pronged sporting challenge with yachtsman Tony Kolb and golf pro Jose Manuel Lara. Taking a Formula One racer out on the Nordschleife was an extraordinary experience. I very much enjoy driving the car in unusual surroundings – I took it for a spin on the ice of St Moritz and now Iâ€™ve put in a few laps at the â€˜Green Hellâ€™ as well. Weâ€™ll have to wait and see if thereâ€™s more to come.â€
â€œOf course, all the teams have used the time leading up to the first race of the European season for development work. The test in Barcelona was also important, although the weather was pretty poor. The extensive testing carried out here means that all the drivers know the track like the back of their hand,â€ Heidfeld continued. â€œItâ€™s a fast circuit and has some nice corners. The fact that this is now the home GP for the world champion has made it much more attractive. Additional grandstands were built for the 2006 race, and they filled up as well.â€
He noted, â€œRacing in this kind of atmosphere is great for all the drivers, not only Fernando. The track layout has been modified – the new section is less exciting, but safer. Now Iâ€™m hoping for another good result for my 30th birthday!â€
Robert Kubica, the first Polish Formula One racing driver, said â€œIâ€™m looking forward to getting started in Europe again and am aiming to earn myself a few more points in the coming weeks. Like all the Formula One teams we know the Barcelona track very well thanks to all the testing we do here. However, the circuit has been changed since last year.â€
Kubica, 22, also driving for BMW Sauber, added: â€œThe last two corners are not as fast as they used to be, and that will affect car set-up. We have done some more testing in Barcelona in the lead-up to this yearâ€™s race. Here, it was important to go the right way and find the ideal balance for the car. We have a lot of data at our disposal and I think we can be quick from the start.â€
He noted, â€œI like the track, but Iâ€™m afraid that the new corners have taken away some of its charm. Fast corners with high downforce are a real treat in a Formula One car. But now the two high-speed corners have been replaced by a tight chicane, where you are only doing 60 or 70 km/h. We used to hit 260 km/h through that part of the track. This change to the track means less fun, but greater safety.â€
Mario Theissen, the BMW Motorsport Director, has this to say: â€œOur performances in the first three rounds of the World Championship have given us a very good start to the season and we have used the time since the Bahrain Grand Prix to fit in some intensive development work. Our rivals will certainly have been doing much the same, though, and the burning question is whether the balance of power has shifted as a result.â€
Theissen added, â€œOur aim is very clear – to maintain our position as the third-best team on the grid. The Circuit de Catalunya is a circuit which places a variety of different demands on the cars, and this has often resulted in it being used as a gauge of a teamâ€™s overall competitiveness. The first race back in Europe is also like a second start to the season in another respect. This is the first time in 2007 that the Formula One World Championship will be reeling out its full regalia. The trucks and hospitality facilities certainly look very impressive, but more importantly they also lighten the workload on the teams. And thatâ€™s something weâ€™re all very pleased about.â€
He stressed, â€œAs announced, following the overseas races we have been looking closely at the driver line-up for the Friday of the GP weekends. Until further notice, the two race drivers will be on track for the whole of Friday. Barcelona will see us offering fans and spectators their second opportunity of the year after Kuala Lumpur to visit the BMW Sauber F1 Team Pit Lane Park. Like last year, this high-tech experience park will be set up in the portside area, near the Ramblas in the centre of Barcelona.â€
â€œThe Park is an emotional platform and offers visitors high entertainment value. Nowhere else can the fans enjoy this kind of unobstructed glimpse behind the scenes, reach out and touch real Formula One exhibits and witness an F1 car in spectacular action at close quarters,â€ Theissen added. â€œThe Pit Lane Park was given a very good reception in 2006 and attracted over 30,000 people to its 2007 debut in Malaysia last month. I am in no doubt that it will leave a lasting impression with everybody who visits it again this season.â€
On the Barcelona race
Willy Rampf, the Technical Director of the team, said: â€œBarcelona is one of the most popular testing venues for the teams, which might lead you to think that all the cars will automatically have a good set-up as a result. The fact is, however, that this course reacts very strongly to fluctuations in temperature, and often the wind also has a big impact. All of which means that the track can present a different challenge time after time.â€
The team is exerting more effort to ensure that BMW ball joints and other race parts are in excellent condition. The performance of both the cars and drivers also are monitored. â€œThe modifications to the last two corners have significantly decreased the speed of the cars through this section of the circuit, and this has somewhat reduced the previously very high loads on the left front tyre,â€ Rampf concluded. â€œIn testing we tried out various new aerodynamics and chassis components, as well as modifications to the carâ€™s electronics – and these have yielded very promising results. Iâ€™m, therefore, approaching the race in confident mood.â€
Re-thinking testing rules
Theissen earlier called for Formula One to re-think its testing regulations on Friday to help young drivers come into the sport. Theissen said that his team would use only their regular race drivers in Friday practice at race weekends for the immediate future rather than official test driver Sebastian Vettel. Under the revised rules, teams can only run two cars in each of Fridayâ€™s two practice sessions – meaning that they have to sideline one of their two race drivers if they want to give a youngster like Germanyâ€™s Vettel a chance.
Theissen said tha tthe decision not to use the highly-rated Vettel, who took part in Friday practice last season and in the opening two race weekends of 2007, had been a tough one to take. â€œWe sat down with the engineers a week ago and had a look at what we had achievedâ€¦ we came to the conclusion that it would have been more beneficial to have the race driver in the car for the entire day,â€ he said at the Spanish Grand Prix.
â€œIt was really a tough decision for me to take because with this yearâ€™s test restrictions you can hardly bring a young driver up to Formula One any more,â€ he added. â€œThere is just not enough opportunity. You have the Friday but then only a few days testing and those days only with one car so there is really no comparison and we normally have a big programme at a test. So I think it would be good for next season to rethink the test restrictions and do something for young drivers,â€ Theissen said.