SEPTEMBER 5, 2002
BMW and Williams
There have been vague signals in recent months that there may be changes in the Williams-BMW relationship in the future. The relationship began in September 1997 when BMW announced plans to link up with Williams in F1 in 1999 for a testing programme and then enter F1 in 2000. The deal was for five years and that means that the current arrangement ends next year. In recent months there has been a considerable amount of negotiation between Williams and BMW about the future but at the moment there is no sign that a deal has been agreed.
At the same time there are stories coming out of Munich which suggest that there are some within BMW who feel that the company should not leave anything to chance and that it should also be building chassis, as is now happening with Toyota. Williams has been blamed for the lack of performance of the cars this year as it is clear that the BMW engine is strong but the chassis is rather difficult.
Taking such a step would be a major undertaking for BMW but it is fair to say that it is probably already too late for BMW to start thinking of building its own team for 2004. That process would need at least a year of testing and then a year in which to put together the right team. And that means that the process should have started at the beginning of this year. The option would be for BMW to buy an existing team and it is not surprising that there has been talk of Sauber as the Swiss team is one of the few independent operations not tied to a manufacturer. It is located not far from Munich and is headed by Willy Rampf, a BMW engineer. BMW could, therefore, buy Sauber from its owner Credit Suisse and be in action in 2004.
For the moment this is all speculation but it is something that Williams needs to worry about for the future. It is unlikely that a team like Williams would these days find itself between motor manufacturers as the availability of Williams would make other car manufacturers sit up and think about their own planning for the future.
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