BMW have been in and out of Formula One in a number of different capacities since the inauguration of the sport in 1950. They entered occasional races in the 1950’s and 60’s before committing to build the BMW 12/13 in line four turbo for Brabham in the 1980’s.
The Brabham BT52-BMW powered Nelson Piquet to a drivers’ championship in 1983. When Brabham temporarily withdrew from Formula One, BMW also withdrew its engines.
BMW historic roots in Formula One
The German automaker rejoined F1 in 2000 with an exclusive deal with the Williams team. The partnership saw Williams return to winning races in 2001 but the all dominant Ferrari of Michael Schumacher meant titles were elusive.
By 2005 the relationship with Williams had deteriorated and BMW withdrew from the arrangement choosing to buy the Sauber team outright. This improved the Swiss teams performances moderately and Robert Kubica won the team’s only race at the 2008 Canadian GP.
In 2009 the car had slipped back towards the rear of the midfield and this combined with a global recession saw BMW sell the team back to its founder Peter Sauber.
Given their Formula One background, it could be seen as surprising that BMW are not joining the clamour amongst manufacturers like Audi, Porsche, Ford and General Motors to re-join Formula One.
Head of M Sport says Formula One ‘not relevant’
Yet the head of BMW M motorsport Andreas Roos believes Formula One’s efforts at being hybrid relevant amount to nothing but ‘folly.’
“When we’re honest, Formula 1 goes hybrid 2026, they are at the moment already but with a hybrid system which has no relevance at all,” Roos told Speedcafe.
“And so 2026, they go to a hybrid system which you already see in cars. But this happens 2026.
“We do the IMSA championship already and the WEC [World Endurance] next year on with a hybrid system, which has road relevance.
Formula One too late to the ‘sustainable’ party
Roos shuns the notion that having the BMW brand emblazoned across an F1 car would benefit the company citing the old fashioned manufacturer’s view that “road relevant” technology is what ultimately matters to their customers.
“And this is why it’s at the moment, perfectly fitting to us, as I said to our road cars.
“And then this is why, for us, to be honest Formula 1, the change is too late to go in this direction.
“It’s a similar story with sustainable fuel, which is already in use in sports car racing but will only be introduced to F1 for 2026.”
For an manufacturer to be part of Formula One at some point in the next decade, they would need to be signing up in the near future given the leads times to scale up a power unit production facility and recent Honda’s example of joining the party late and playing catchup.
BMW out of F1 for at least a decade
When pressed, Roos replied, “It’s not a topic for us at all.”
“There’s nothing really at the moment where we look really into Formula 1.”
The rush to join Formal One by the current crop of new manufacturers is a new phenomena and may be in part due to the success Mercedes have had since joining the sport in 2010. The Brackley based team won 8 consecutive constructor titles and 7 drivers’ championships until Red Bull-Honda recently broke their dominance.
At present much is being made of the fact that the cost cap, the handicap system of aero testing allowances and the incoming cost cap for power units will level the playing field.
Manufacturers rush to join F1 may end in tears
Yet if after 5 years of effort Audi are yet to win a race and still mired in the midfield, will they still have the desire to compete in Formula One?
Formula One has never really been like Indycar where for example in 2022 there were 9 different drivers who won races. On the whole the pecking order does not change hugely over an F1 season, so the drivers winning races in the first quarter of the year tend to be those who are winning races as the season draws to a conclusion.
Whilst Mercedes are committed to producing power units for the under the new 2026 regulations, whether the Stuttgart based company continues to give its name to a team is a different matter.
Were the team to fail to win another title before 2026 as well as struggle to win races, its not beyond the bounds of comprehension that Daimler AG would sell its stake and the team be renamed once again.