BMW Sauber's third season in Formula One, the one where it expects to start challenging for race wins, officially began with the unveiling of an overhauled challenger at Munich's BMW Welt.

The F1.08 is, in the words of technical director Willy Rampf, a 'radical evolution', a car based on a predecessor with few wrinkles that needed ironing out and which had already proven itself to be reasonably competitive, if not ultimately world-beating. Instead of having to correct faults in the latter stages of last season, however, the designers and engineers were able to use knowledge gained over the course of 2007 to begin focusing their attention on 2008 earlier than many of their rivals.

Rampf revealed that two goals had been uppermost in the engineers minds as they set about designing F1.08 - a higher level of aerodynamic efficiency with a stable aero balance - while other areas - including improved mechanical grip and weight reduction of various components to allow maximum use of ballast - also came in for attention..

The most striking feature as the covers came off the F1.08 was the front wing, beefed up but made to look bigger than it is in reality by a slimmer nose section. A totally new development, the wing now consists of three elements after the team's aero experts focused heavily on its effect on overall downforce of the new car. The nose section, meanwhile, is significantly slimmer than that of its predecessor, but has been designed to work in close harmony with the revised front wing.

"You can't treat the individual components in isolation," Rampf explained, "At the end of the day, it is critical that they work together to optimum effect."

The rear end has also been on something of a visual diet, with a narrower engine cover featuring all-new additional wing elements. The volume of the engine cover has been reduced substantially, with the aim of improving the efficiency of the back of the car. The reduction has been achieved by moving the exhaust system closer to the engine, while cool ducts and chimneys have been redesigned to virtually eliminate any tail-off in performance during races run in extreme heat.

The extra wing elements on the engine cover - again designed to work in harmony with other aero devices such as the 'winglets' in front of the rear wheels - are another new feature while, below them, the sidepods have undergone minor modifications to further enhance cooling, although the success of the F1.07 in this area persuaded the designers not to make too many alterations.

World champion Ferrari's influence on the car can be seen with the addition of 'rim shields' - effectively hub caps for all four wheels, albeit different from and back with the parts designed to remain stationary on the front axle but turn with the wheels at the rear. The task remains the same for both sets of covers, however, with brake cooling and airflow around the tyres the key considerations.

While the regulations governing aerodynamics remain unchanged in 2008, changes can also be seen around the cockpit area, as BMW Sauber complies with the latest safety regulations calling for higher head protection to maintain driver security should their car be hit by another off the ground.

Under the skin - which, in keeping with the three previous unveilings this off-season, bears a remarkable resemblance to last year's livery - the F1.08 will run without various drives aids thanks to changes in the technical regulations banning traction control and the like. The engine, which has received only minor tweaks in line with the mandated development freeze will also now be governed by a standard ECU, as supplied to all eleven teams for use in 2008.

Although Nick Heidfeld is sue to give the car a demo run as part of the launch in Munich, it will not be until Tuesday [15 January] that the F1.08 shows its potential for real, when the team carries out a shakedown run in Valencia.



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