Formula 1: Monaco the BMW Killer

Racing | May 25th, 2009 by 7
kubica monaco 09 05 24

After the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, BMW Sauber were beginning to look toward a brighter finish to the season. They had introduced a massive …

After the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, BMW Sauber were beginning to look toward a brighter finish to the season. They had introduced a massive upgrade to the F1.09 for that race and there was cause to be more positive after looking at the results. Most other teams introduced significant upgrades that weekend as well and although the F1.09 was much better the resulting gain wasn’t as significant.

The next upgrade which includes a new double decker diffuser is to be ready to be introduced for Istanbul Turkey in 2 weeks time. This left the Monaco Grand Prix this past weekend with the upgrades from Spain only. Monaco, with its many slow speed corners will magnify any downforce problems a car has problems by 10 and this was what was awaiting BMW Sauber.

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Right from the start on Thursday free practice it was clear Monaco would have the better of the F1.09 no matter who were to drive it. Practice times were very much off the pace and it didn’t matter what setup was used or weather they used the soft or super soft tires. The car was slow.

To make matters worse, the usually bulletproof reliability has hit the team and in the second practice session on Thursday Robert Kubica lost an engine in a cloud of white smoke and flames. This left him short on setup laps for qualifying and quite bitter.

Qualifying on Saturday was no better performance wise. Add to the problems a lot of traffic crammed into this short track and neither Nick Heidfeld or Robert Kubica could advance past Q1 and would start 16th and 17th on the grid.

Come race day it was clear that BMW Sauber were to be back markers for their first time ever. Before the race was 2 laps old Kubica suffered a flat tire and had to pit immediately forcing him way off the back of the Monaco train with little hope of gaining any meaningful positions. It was lap 22 that finally ended his day when on and off brake problems finally forced him to the garage. That left Nick Heidfeld to at least finish the race. Being on a one stop strategy and hoping for attrition ahead of him was his only option to gain position and he did. The ever reliable Nick Heidfeld clawed his way up to 11th where he finished.

This was an embarrassing weekend for the team and at one point a shot of Kubica on a rant next to Heidfeld who continually nodded his agreement showed the building frustration. No one on the team is happy and as Mario Theissen put it “at no point this weekend was our car competitive”.

In 2 weeks is the Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul and this is where the new double decker diffuser will be introduced. If the package works the F1.09 should gain quite a bit of downforce through the corners and improve race pace.

For more information on the BMW Sauber F1 team, please visit

7 responses to “Formula 1: Monaco the BMW Killer”

  1. Giom says:

    I would like to make a few remarks. First, bad tempers and talk of loosing is not going to help the team forward. Kubica is alowed to be frustrated, but to drag the team down in negativity isn’t going to help. If they’re going to go forward, it will have to be a team effort with lots of positive inputs from the top guys and the two drivers.

    Second, do they know what is wrong? Is it only the aerodinamics? or is it at base level from a chassis design point? Cause, if it IS only the aerodinamics, they can fix it (way too late, but fixable). If it is the chassis… start working on next years’ car.

    That brings me to the third. The confusion of what is to happen next year. If there were a next year, that could serve as an insentive to encourage the team to work towards a winning performance -kinda, start from scratch sort of thing, put this year behind us. In stead now, what are they working towards? Saving face before the season end maybe?

    If there is a team that can make a championship contending car, it’s this one. But, morale needs to be build up first though.

  2. Steve Tenney says:

    They seem so far off, to have missed it by that much is very surprising. No grip, but isn’t Monaco primarily a mechanical grip situation? Did they focus too much on KERS only to find that F1 is still more of an aerodynamic challenge? I wouldn’t guess that the new diffuser will fix the problem by itself, but it would be great if it did.

    Robert Kubica is a competitive guy. I’m sure they expect some fire from him. I hope they can tell from all the data where they are losing the most time. I’m also sure they will make the most out of their effort to move forward. Good Luck!

  3. Gord says:

    It seems BMW have setup issues. I think Heidfeld reported that they drastically altered the setup for quali, but nothing happened, usually they would at least gain or lose performance.

  4. Alex Vintu says:

    First of all, what an unpredictable year in F1.
    Who would’ve imagined last year the driver and constructor standings of today. I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted what we see today and yet that is the beauty of the sport.

    And BMW, from a very strong constructor 3rd place in 2008 goes to 8th so far this year, with Kubica finishing only 4 out of 6 races (got tipped off by Vettel in AU and the brakes fiasco in Monaco) to date and zero points. And in those 4 races both Kubica and Heidfeld showed poor performances, along with Ferrari and McLaren – last years leaders.

    I am not a huge BMW F1 fan, but I enjoyed watching Kubica last year and see how BMW was getting closer to the leaders vs how dissapointed I am this year as I dont see things improving at BMW at all, they have major reliability issues, as does Ferrari, and they’re so off the pace because their package is simply not competitive this year.

    Ferrari seemed to have improved in Monaco, finally, as it was getting boring to see the Brawns or the Redbulls on the podium each time

    Monaco is such a drivers circuit, where qualifying is key as overtaking is extremely difficult. Although, Kubica had bad luck with his brakes, Heidfeld who was 16th on the grid and finished 11th but with 5 cars retiring, he essentially didn’t advance at all or loose any positions. Is it the poor package (both heidfeld and kubica complained all weekend about controlling the rear of the car), or the difficulty of overtaking to be blamed only? I don’t think so. Could the added downforce help in the slow corners or a better engine? absolutely, but that’s not all, not in Monaco.

    Do I think Heidfeld and Kubica can do better? absolutely, look at Button – for years he hasn’t won anything until he got into a very competitive car. Similarly, with a few exceptions, I think it’s primarily a package problem and so I hope BMW will step up their game in the next races to challenge the first row incumbents this year. Apparently new upgrades are coming for Turkey, let’s hope it will be an interesting race.

  5. Matt Stokes says:

    Monaco was disaster, set-up was wrong and they couldn’t get a handle on it. I think they need to decide very quickly on what they are doing next year, if they are going to abandon this years development then they need to set-out NOW what they want to do next year… arguing with the FIA over rules for the next two months can only set-back that development process and reduce the possible benefits.

    Dr. Theissen has also indicated the strong possibility of BMW pulling factory support from the WTCC, leaving BMW with only customer cars racing in the independents category, and the national championships (e.g. BTCC and STCC).

    If BMW leave F1, they would not have a factory presence in a world championship (aside from the Superbikes, which doesnt really count!)

    I for one wouldn’t object to BMW pulling out of F1, I was a massive fan – but now it’s become a clown show I’m loosing interest rapidly.

    BMW focus on LMP racers for a while, whilst expanding their range of GT class cars (hard to imagine a GT1 6 series or M3 though)… whilst still offering S2000 & S2000D class cars for customer touring car teams.

    … then there’s also the DTM… I’d like to see them there, but I don’t think I could stomach them loosing to Audi and Mercedes race after race, which would be quite likely to begin with.

  6. Doug says:

    Does F1 not allow active aerodynamics, like hydraulic front/rear spoilers? It seems like that’s been desperately needed for some time now.

  7. Matt Stokes says:

    @Doug: An element of the front wing can be moved twice per lap under current regulations, i.e. low downforce to high downforce and back again once per lap, for situations like braking into a hairpin at an otherwise fast low downforce track.

    Other than this active/movable/flexible aerodynamics are outlawed by the FIA in F1 currently.

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