BMW Prepared to be Beaten by Williams

Mario Theissen was just a bystander in the background as 'Iron' Mike Tyson ambled down the Turkish Grand Prix starting grid

BMW Prepared to be Beaten by Williams

The tattooed Tyson, appearing as a guest of Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone on Sunday, can always be counted on to generate headlines as an ever-controversial former world heavyweight Champion.

BMW motorsport director Theissen could be a big-hitter himself soon, however.

Although he says no decision has been taken about his own role, the German engineer is expected to be at the helm when BMW enter their own team in the Championship for the first time next season after buying Sauber.

That does not mean Theissen expects the team, whose official name has also yet to be decided, to be immediately competitive, but he is sure they will get there in the end.

If he has any immediate prediction, it is that former partners Williams, who will completely sever their ties at the end of the season to enter a new relationship with Cosworth, could well beat BMW next year.

"We will have a team which has never been ahead of Williams so far due to the limited resources they had," he told Reuters in Istanbul. "And you cannot change that in a few weeks.

"The steps you have to take require time, and if you take on additional staff then that process will certainly go beyond 2006. If you expand the factory, that will also go beyond 2006.

"So it is clear that next year we will not be in a position to challenge the top teams and to me it would be only natural if Williams were ahead of us."

Best Finish

"Obviously we are trying as hard to beat them as they try to beat us but, to me, it doesn't matter too much if it's Williams who is in front of us or any other team," said Theissen.

Sauber's best season was 2001, when they finished fourth in the Championship while Williams were third.

While Williams have won 113 races and nine constructors' titles, Sauber have yet to finish a race higher than third place since their debut in 1993.

Manufacturer-backed teams should hold all the cards but engine rules are changing next season, with three litre V10s making way for 2.4 litre V8s.

However, Cosworth were owned by Ford until last year and are a special case.

"They have been backed by a manufacturer, have been part of a manufacturer and have a lot of experience of Formula One engines of all kinds," said Theissen.

"It will be interesting to see if Cosworth can offer a competitive package and can cover the up-front expenses to design and develop a new engine.

"I think it will be good if they prove successful because it will mean that not only a big manufacturer can create a competitive engine."

He said BMW would not make any significant savings on not having to provide engines to Williams.

"We wouldn't have made money with supplying Williams, it would have cost us some money but that was not the main issue," he declared.

"The main issue was that we had to take on additional people, a second track and test team. It would have been about 25 people and that's why we had to insist on a decision a few weeks ago," he said.

"It releases us from this duty to expand the team on the Munich side."

Driver Choice

BMW also have decisions to make about their driver line-up, with Brazilian Felipe Massa leaving to replace compatriot Rubens Barrichello at Ferrari.

"We have just started to talk about drivers and to talk to drivers but I cannot tell you any details," said Theissen apologetically.

Neither would he confirm whether Canadian Jacques Villeneuve, whose Sauber contract covers next year, was correct in expecting to remain at the team.

Theissen said that, until the end of the season, the BMW engineers working with Williams would remain fully focused on their activities with that team.

"That will not change until the final race," he said. "On the other hand of course, off-track we are working with Sauber already, especially on the long-term issues."

In six seasons with Williams, BMW have won just 10 races and twice finished Championship runners-up. It was not enough to satisfy the carmaker but Theissen is wary about making predictions for their own team.

"We have to become competitive and then it's about racing, if you win or are beaten, but you have to be competitive," he said.

"I certainly hope that we will be Champions within five years but I cannot predict it."

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