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GP Week : Issue 48
5 MINUTES WITH ... Willy Rampf BMW’s Technical Director talks KERS, diffusers and where it’s all gone wrong in 2009. He spoke toWILL BUXTON GPWEEK: Willy, a tough start to the season. What’s gone wrong? WILLY RAMPF: This is difficult to say. From last year to this year we did not have really a proper reference because a lot of things have changed. If you take tyres as one thing, aerodynamics I think is the most important thing, and basically the regulations, which came from the overtaking working group, were designed to cut laptimes by 1.5 seconds, but it soon became clear everybody would be above this level. Nobody knew how far you have to be above this level and I think that was a surprise for some teams, that one team or another made much bigger steps than everybody expected. You were the first to run 09 parts and first to launch your 09 car. How disappointing is it that after all of that work the results have not come yet? I don’t think it’s so much disappointing. I think it is more that “oops now we have to start again to try to catch up as soon as possible.” It is still a technical challenge. When did you begin the 2009 car? As soon as the regulations were finalised at the end of 2007 we started with some conceptual work, but more on the CFD side and with the first experimental work in the wind tunnel it was at the beginning of 2008, maybe March, but certainly before the season started last year. So how exciting was it being given a blank piece of paper? This is quite exciting because this is what every engineer wants, to come up with different ideas, to have a different approach and hoping that your ideas are the best ones. When the other teams started launching their cars how interesting was it to see what they’d done? In the beginning it was not so completely different. We only had a few tests together with other teams, one of which was in Bahrain with Ferrari and Toyota and here our laptimes were on a similar level. From there we thought that we couldn’t be far off, because to have a similar laptime to Ferrari is usually a good sign. And at the tests before we were definitely quicker than McLaren which was also a good sign because they are used to developing quick cars. It was more in the last tests when Brawn was on the track in Barcelona that we realised that their car was about 7 or 8 tenths quicker, was a very good car overall, not only with the diffuser which was anyway in question, it was clear that they had made a big step which we could not compensate in the first races. So after all of that work, starting in 07/08 and suddenly realising that Brawn had the advantage, what’s the next step after that final test? Well it was clear that you cannot compensate this gap because in Barcelona it was about 7 or 8 tenths. So you cannot compensate that by improving the so-called Melbourne car. We had to start with a new aero concept to attach a lot of components on the bodywork and diffuser. Only by making bigger steps on the car could we make the big steps in lap time. There’s been a lot of talk this year about the diffuser. How much has that affected the way in which you’ve had to go about the redesign? At first, when this double diffuser was declared legal, it was obvious that everybody would work with quite a high priority on this. The concept I think is quite clever but it’s not so easy to get it working. It’s not that you cut a few holes in the floor and expect that all of a sudden you have a big improvement. We realised that this was very important because we have a car designed around a conventional diffuser and then you have to make a massive change aerodynamically in the floor which is the most sensitive part of the car. It needs a lot of refinement, fine tuning and optimising to make the concept work. And of course it would affect all the design of the car. Yeah, it’s even worse because it also affects the front end of the car which is the place you start your development fairly early. The upper surfaces of the car, the engine cover, rear wing, the suspension, all these parts are basically involved to get the double diffuser working. Let’s talk KERS. BMW have always been big supporters, but what role do you see it playing now? What’s the general feeling? With KERS there is for sure a performance advantage because when you boost you get a few tenths depending on the track, you have a strategic advantage on the start and on a qualifying lap where you can use a double boost before the line and after. It should be a bit easier to overtake but it’s not automatic that it helps, but it can