BMW enjoyed a manufacturer presence in Formula 1 between 2000 and 2009, initially working with Williams before making Sauber its factory team in 2006. The BMW team won the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix before abruptly withdrawing from F1 at the end of 2009 after the global financial crisis of the year prior. The manufacturer recently revealed that it feels F1 is not relevant in terms of its road car business when compared to LMDh.
Although it has been linked with a potential return to F1, given the level of interest from manufacturers in recent times and the change in engine rules, BMW has made it clear that its priority is its new LMDh programme.
BMW has been involved in Formula One in a number of capacities since the inauguration of the World Drivers’ Championship in 1950. The company entered occasional races in the 1950s and 1960s (often under Formula Two regulations), before building the BMW M12/13 inline-four turbocharged engine in the 1980s. After the ban on turbo cars, BMW withdrew from the sport.
BMW decided to return to Formula One in the late 1990s by signing an exclusive contract with the Williams team, which needed a new long-term engine supplier after the withdrawal of Renault in 1997. The programme resulted in the creation of a new V10 engine which made its race début in the Williams FW22 in 2000.
The BMW Sauber project lasted from 2006 until 2009, and resulted in a substantial increase in competitiveness for the Swiss former privateer team. Two podium finishes in the first year were followed by a solid third in the Constructors’ Championship in 2007 (which became second when McLaren was disqualified). In 2008, Robert Kubica won the team’s only race, the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix, and led the Drivers’ Championship at one point, but the team chose to focus on development of its 2009 car and slipped back in the standings by the end of the season.
After this, BMW withdrew from F1 for good.
BMW motorsport today
In the modern era, BMW has its sights set on sportscar racing with the new BMW LMDh car dur to make its debut in IMSA next year before expanding into the World Endurance Championship from 2024, when it will also return to fight for 24 Hours of Le Mans honours.
“We are almost fully into electrification and the transformation to electrification already,” Roos explained.
“LMDh fits in perfectly – and not only in 2026, when Formula 1 will move in this direction. From that point of view, it’s the right time for us to do LMDh now. “
F1 too far away from our products
Frank van Meel, CEO of BMW M Motorsport GmbH, acknowledged the marketing value and reach of F1 racing, but said BMW is “not in motorsport just for marketing reasons.”
“We want to derive something for the series and develop together,” van Meel said.
“That’s why LMDh is clearly more important to us than Formula 1. It’s too far away from our M series products, but also too far away in time with the subject of electrification.”