APRIL 7, 1997
More BMW rumors
THE constantly-recycling rumor that BMW will enter Formula 1 next year has popped up again, the suggestion this time being that the Munich-based car manufacturer - which is currently making healthy profits and looking to new markets around the world - will pay for the Mecachrome V10 engines which Williams will be using next season.
This would give the German marque an almost guaranteed level of competitiveness as soon as it entered F1 and would avoid the risk of a all-new engine failing to work - as happened to Porsche with its 3.5-liter V12 in 1990. BMW could then develop its own F1 engine for the 2000 season.
Such a deal would not be very different to the current Sauber Petronas arrangement with Ferrari and would be purely a question of money.
The stories fail to take into account a couple of important points: Renault may have pulled out of F1 but the top management at Renault is not looking at Grand Prix as being finished for the company. Shifting the engines to Mecachrome for a couple of years while the main Renault company is restructured suggests that Renault wants to return and continue the development process in the year 2000. There is, therefore, no reason to give away its secrets to its rival BMW.
We hear that there is also an independent engine building company which is currently in the process of designing and building a Formula 1 prototype engine in the hope that BMW engineers will like the idea and will take over the project.
There remains a certain amount of reticence about F1 among the top BMW management in Munich - notably from the chairman of the company's supervisory board Eberhard von Kuenheim. The recent McLaren-Mercedes victory in Australia may, ironically, have helped BMW because the German newspapers did not, as expected, report about why Michael Schumacher failed to win, but rather that Mercedes had won. German manufacturers have been a little wary of F1 in recent years because it was always believed that the drivers took the glory - unless something went wrong in which case, the engines took the blame...
The publicity generated by Mercedes-Benz in Melbourne may also have a dramatic effect on other German car manufacturers with ambitions to enter Grand Prix racing. There is little doubt that Audi (which grew out of racing's legendary AutoUnion company) and Porsche both have F1 ambitions if the circumstances are right. All the German companies are currently doing very well, despite the economic problems in Germany.
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