Just after nine o'clock this morning [Tuesday], the BMW
Sauber F1 effort became a reality as the wraps came off its first bespoke Formula One
car - the F1.06 - in front of more than 500 assembled media and guests at the futuristic Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias in Valencia.
The new-look line-up of Jacques Villeneuve, Nick Heidfeld
and Robert Kubica
helped pull the covers off the car, the first entered under the BMW
'works' banner, which is due to make its track debut, again under the watchful eye of the press, at the Circuito de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo this afternoon.
The team claims that the F1.06 is an all-new concept, with the shorter and more fuel-efficient V8 engine having a distinct influence on the design. Due to the minimum dimensions decreed by the FIA, the overall dimensions of the car remain almost unchanged, leaving the engineers to turn their focus to enhancing the aerodynamics, where it was not only a question of claiming optimum downforce, but also enhanced the efficiency of the airflow. The construction, arrangement and design of all sub-assemblies and components followed this premise.
"For the designers, the more compact engine means more scope in the design of the car," confirmed technical director on the chassis side, Willy Rampf, "The lower tank
capacity of the F1.06 impacted on both the design of the monocoque and the position of the engine. The shorter powerplant also allowed the engineers to extend the titanium casing of the seven-speed transmission, which favoured the construction of a decidedly slim-line rear end."
The front section of the car, in particular, has come in for some striking treatment. The chassis has been significantly lowered at the front, which means the lower wishbones are no longer attached below the monocoque, but directly to the side of the chassis. The nose of the car has also been lowered further to the ground and features an underside that curves slightly upwards. The front wing has been adjusted to the other changes.
The aim of all these measures has been to improve the air flow to the underbody and the sidepods. The reduced cooling requirement of the V8 engine allows not only for more compact radiators, but for smaller apertures in the sidepods as well, which also benefits the car's aerodynamics. The same goes for the rollover bar with its integral air intake, which has been reduced in size as a result of the engine's lower air throughput. Complex finite-element calculations have also enabled the team to make a significant weight reduction in the rollover bar, despite still complying with the FIA's stringent safety requirements.
A completely new feature of the F1.06 is the design of the front and rear suspension. On the front axle, the layout is significantly determined by the higher attachment points of the lower wishbones, as dictated by the revised aerodynamics. The rear axle is a similarly new construction, designed to meet the demands of the Michelin tyres the team will continue to use in 2006.
Lowering the front section has also required a corresponding drop in the position of the pedals and the inboard front-axle components, along with a lower position for the driver's legs, all of which helps to lower the car's centre of gravity.