The simple aerodynamics (sic) of the Sauber F1.08 BMW…

Posted: November 22, 2022 in F1
Tags: , , ,

Nick Heidfeld battles the elements in his Sauber F1.08 BMW, the complexities of the cars aero treatment are the ‘outstanding’ feature of the car, Monaco GP 2008.

He was 14th, last in the race won by Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren MP4/23 Mercedes. Teammate Robert Kubica was second in a great drive, Felipe Massa, Ferrari F2008 third and Mark Webber, Red Bull RB27 Renault fourth.

Technical Director, Willy Rampf explains the aero rationale “Monaco demands maximum downforce. This means parts where aerodynamic efficiency is not good but which generate downforce. It’s the circuit with the slowest average speed and downforce therefore maximum priority.”

“We used the front wing with maximum downforce. The modified synchroniser retainer plates with top deflectors combine with the flap to exert significant influence on the air flow around the front tyres. There was a small T-wing for more downforce on the so-called Batman in front of the rear wheels. The rear wing was our steepest producing maximum tread pressure, this was mounted over central supports on the gearbox. We used rim covers in a modified version for the first time, which also generated additional downforce.”

Willy Rampf headed the BMW Sauber AG design team, with Australian Willem Toet the Head of Aerodynamics. He has been back home for a while now, I really should chase him down, does anyone have contact details?

The carbon fibre chassis, upper and lower wishbones, push-rod suspended, BMW P86/8 2.4-litre V8 powered car was raced by Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld in 2008.

It was quick too. Nick was second in Melbourne, Robert second in Malaysia while Kubica took pole in Bahrain with the pair finishing 3-4 behind the leading Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa. Kubica won in Canada from the front row, but the F1.08 fell away in speed relative to Ferrari and McLaren as Sauber started to prepare for 2009. This pissed Kubica off as he was leading the championship at the time! Worse was that the 2009 F1.09 proved to be a shit-heap.

Lewis Hamilton won the first of his World Championships aboard the McLaren MP4/23 Mercedes with Ferrari victorious in the World Constructors Championship using the Ferrari F2008.

Robert Kubica, Sauber F1.08 BMW, Italian GP 2008 (Reddit)

Compare and contrast Monaco and Monza (above) aero setups, “the only genuine high-speed circuit left on the calendar’,” quipped Rampf.

“We used a low downforce aero package, the main focus of which was drag reduction. We accepted a 30% loss of downforce compared with Monaco and used a different front wing with only two elements. While the Tomcat wings were omitted, there were two additional wings on the monocoque, known internally as Manta Rays, which conducted air flow optimally over the engine cover and hence improved the effect of the rear wing. The side wings on the engine covers were omitted for drag reasons. The rear wing was very different from the others used. It had a small main element and a much bigger flap with a serrated Gurney. The synchroniser plates with a clearly defined cutout were striking, they ensured a stable airflow when cornering.”

The idea to slice and dice a Sauber F1.08 – chassis F1.08-2 – was ex-Sauber man Sergio Bonagura’s idea in 2009. It’s a powerful way of getting a handle on the packaging and technology of modern’ish F1 cars. It took team mechanics two years to prepare the exhibit, by spring 2012 the project was complete.

More on the design of the car.

Traction control was banned in 2008 so a well balanced machine was critical. Fortunately the F1.07 zero-keel carbon fibre chassis design was a good car, aspects of it were carried forward. The zero-keel feature removes obstructions from under the nose and allowed undisturbed air to strike the splitter below the driver, directing airflow around the car.

F1.08 had a narrower nose, and the wing more of a box-design under the nose, giving the car a more pronounced gull-wing look. The tri-deck remained on the front wing, with the addition of wings atop the nose, a trend that year across the grid. Early in the season Sauber incorporated an integrated sidepod ear and bargeboard to rout air from behind the front wing all the way to, and around the sidepods. A byproduct was enhanced radiator efficiency.

The sidepods were pulled in tighter towards the rear with taller chimneys incorporated to enhance cooling. There was a fin down the spine of the engine cover to help control airflow at the rear especially under braking. A mid-span wing attached to the T-wing from the engine cover. This small wing located centrally on the car helped load-transfers, aiding stability under brakes and acceleration.

(G Piola)
(G Piola)

The rear wing was located on endplates (as on the F1.07), it allowed undisturbed airflow under the rear wing and out the back of the car. The wing itself was simple compared to most of the competition, having two fences, and, in common with most other teams, gill-like cutouts to allow turbulent air to spill out the sides, reducing drag induced turbulence. Sauber also adopted Ferrari like ‘shields’ over the wheels which aided braking and aerodynamics.

The front and rear suspension, wishbones and pushrod actuated inboard spring/Sachs shocks were carried over with minor refinements from F1.07. The brakes were Brembo six-pot calipers and Carbone Industrie rotors, wheels OZ, and tyres Bridgestone. Weight including driver was 605kg.

The transaxle was the BMW-Sauber seven speed. It and the BMW P86/8 19000rpm rev-limited 2398cc 90 degree – “over 720bhp V8” was quoted by BMW so far more than that – was also carried over.

(Sauber BMW)


BMW Sauber AG,, Wikipedia,, G Piola


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