BMW joins Ferrari, Toyota and Honda in the elite group of auto manufacturers putting their reputations on the line in Formula 1 with Monday's registration of the "BMW Sauber F1 Team" with the FIA. The filing fixes the team name for five years, ensuring that the Sauber name will remain in F1 for at least that long.
Of the team's three drivers, only Nick Heidfeld (pictured) is confirmed. Jacques Villeneuve's contract is in a tenuous position after a lackluster 2005 season with Sauber. According to GrandPrix.com, the drivers rumored to be in the running for a BMW Sauber seat include Champ Car's Sebastien Bourdais, IRL champion Dan Wheldon, and Finland's GP2 sensation (and Renault protege) Heikki Kovalainen.
Sauber Technical Director Willi Rampf will remain in charge of the Swiss facility, while Heinz Paschen will remain Technical Director of the team's Munich facility, which expands its responsibilities from engines to the complete powertrain.
The official launch of the new team will occur with a two day test of the 2006 car in Valencia, Spain in mid-January. Meanwhile, on-track testing of the new BMW P86 V8 engine will begin in Barcelona later this month.
[Source: BMW Group]