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.
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 BMWF1blog.com