BMW are set to break their contract with Sir Frank Williams' team after announcing yesterday that they will be taking over management of Peter Sauber's operation in 2006.
Relations between BMW, Williams, and his technical designer, Patrick Head, have become increasingly strained this year. The British engineers reacted angrily to continual criticism from their engine partner that their side of the alliance was responsible for the fact that the partnership has yielded only 10 victories in its five-year existence.
"This is something I personally consider to be extremely unprofessional," Head said recently. "Unfortunately, our partner chose to tell people they are perfect while accusing us. This is honestly something which shows very little character. In my opinion, we should work like a united family, but instead this doesn't happen at all."
Yesterday, BMW's motorsport director Dr Mario Theissen outlined the thinking behind their decision. "The realignment of our Formula One strategy is based on two insights," Theissen said. "Firstly, the influence of the engine on the winning potential of the overall package has diminished; the car, the tyres and drivers play a greater role than they used to.
"Secondly, from our point of view, an optimal overall package can only be achieved with a fully integrated team.
"At Sauber we have found a solid foundation for vehicle development and production."
The deal with BMW enables Sauber to compete more strongly against the six other major manufacturers in Formula One.
BMW made little mention of their ongoing contract with Williams. "Naturally, this decision impacts on our partnership," board member Professor Burkhard Göschel said. "We want to discuss the future options together with Williams."
Williams are already believed to have agreed an engine deal with Toyota for next year, possibly badged as Lexus, the Japanese manufacturer's upmarket brand.