BMW Sauber technical director Willy Rampf has said that the team will take a positive reaction to slipping away from the front of the Formula One field towards the end of the season, and return next year ready to make another step forward.
After three races of the 2008 campaign, the Hinwil/Munich operation sat atop the constructors' championship, with Robert Kubica moving to the head of the drivers' standings after he and team-mate Nick Heidfeld finished 1-2 in Canada, but slipped away from the battle with Ferrari and McLaren over the second half of the season to finish third overall.
While pleased with the way that, once an initial lack of pace in testing had been overcome, the team's F1.08 design had allowed Kubica and Heidfeld to challenge for podiums at nearly every round, Rampf admitted that there had been a limited level of development potential in the car that would be redressed for the 2009 season.
"This car was something very special," he said fondly, "It was not purely a further development [of previous seasons], as we opted for a very aggressive approach for the F1.08. This was very important given the goals for the season we had set ourselves, but clearly not without risk.
"Indeed, at the roll-out the car was still far from its full potential. What followed was a very tough, but also incredibly productive time for us – and, by the start of the season, we had the car very much on track. In Melbourne, Robert was only a hair's breadth away from taking pole position.”
“Of course, success [in Canada] raised expectations, both within the team and from the outside. We developed several new parts which produced good results in the wind tunnel but, when it came to their performance on the track, they did not deliver what they promised. Added to which, the optimum set-up window of the F1.08 was very small - it was not easy to adjust the individual parameters to stay within this window all the time. But this was a learning experience, which we will utilise again for the 2009 season.”
Canada was clearly the high point of the season for BMW Sauber, despite the team racking up eleven podium finishes and one pole position between Australia and Brazil, and Rampf admitted that Kubica's victory had been ample reward for the efforts being put in at the operation's twin bases in Switzerland and Germany.
“You just can't put it into words," he said of the feelings in Montreal, "When no other car and no other drivers are better than your two, you have reached your goal. And that applies not only to me, but to the whole team.
"You mustn't forget that many of the people in the team gave everything over a number of years for the independent Sauber team – without any prospect of getting right to the top on their own merits – and have been part of the BMW Sauber F1 Team from its launch. The one-two in Montreal had a big impact on us all, and not only on the Sunday – it had a sustained effect.”
With the 2008 campaign completed, Rampf will now take on a different role within the BMW Sauber organisation - indeed, it began at the start of the month - where he will continue to be responsible for F1 vehicle concept and will lead the team at the race track, but hand responsibility for business operations and line management to Walter Riedl.
“I have responsibility for the F1.09 concept and, as technical co-ordinator
, will also be at the helm for the team's race activities in 2009," he said, admitting to looking forward to next season, "It was important for me to cut down on my workload – this was a personal decision following a long time working flat-out.”