BMW Sauber team principal Mario Theissen insists that the Hinwil squad expects to be challenging for Formula One's world championship next season, despite having to cope with the major shift in the regulations.
The team achieved its set aim of becoming a regular contender for race wins in 2008, with Robert Kubica taking its, and his, first F1 victory at the Canadian Grand Prix in June, but cynics have suggested that Theissen's outfit may follow in the wheeltracks of other pretenders to the throne regularly contested by McLaren and Ferrari, and fade away just as the ultimate prize appeared within reach.
Theissen, however, maintains that, having managed to closely follow its prescribed development path this far, he expects to see Kubica and team-mate Nick Heidfeld continue to increase the pressure on F1's 'big two' in 2009.
"Formula One is set to experience the most significant rule changes in its history," he accepted in his end-of-term assessment, "Wide-reaching controls on aerodynamics systems will see the cars looking totally different in 2009, treadless tyres will be brought back and the totally new KERS technology introduced. This may bring about shifts in the balance of power, [but] this extremely challenging scenario does not alter our goal of fighting for the world championship title in 2009."
At the mid-way point of the 2008 campaign, it looked as though Kubica and the team could actually achieve Theissen's aim a year ahead of schedule. BMW Sauber had already topped the constructors' standings as early as round three, while its Polish driver assumed first place in the drivers' points table following his victory in Canada. Thereafter, however, the team faded as a force and, despite Kubica only being eliminated from title contention at the penultimate round in China, had to settle for third place in the teams' standings and fourth in the drivers'.
While Kubica made plain his frustration at what he saw as a loss of focus from the team, with 2009 becoming the centre of attention, Theissen insists that that was not necessarily the case.
"It wasn't a question of what should have happened, but what we wanted to be the case," he said of the lofty ambitions, "These magnificent achievements so early in the season naturally whetted the appetite for more.
"We are proud of our successful season and we have once again achieved our exacting goals. We set out to turn the two-horse race at the top of the standings into a three-way battle and to record our first victory. We reached this target much earlier than expected and even managed to do so with a one-two finish.
"Although it didn't take us long to reach our goals, there was no let-up from anybody in the team. We continued to bring new and further stages of technical developments into the car in the second half of the season but, unfortunately, they didn't produce the performance gains we expected. Our pace of development was fine, but the results were not up to scratch and our rivals opened up a gap over us during the course of the season. We will learn from this for 2009, when we will be looking to be up there battling for the title."