By Andrew Benson
Motorsport editor at Imola
Williams failed to build on a good qualifying display at Imola
BMW has insisted that it will extend its engine partnership with the Williams team by the middle of this season.
The companies had initially intended to extend their current contract, which runs out at the end of 2004, by January this year.
A series of delays have led to speculation that BMW, which is reputed to build the most powerful engine in Formula One, might pull out of the deal.
But BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen said: "The contract is not finalised - we are still in negotiations.
"It's about agreeing terms which suit both parties. I'm confident it will be done by mid-season.
We've improved the performance of our car and I'm confident we can be competitive if we keep improving it
BMW motorsport director
"We are primarily talking about how to operate in the future as a joint team.
"Looking at Ferrari, they do this. It is certainly an advantage to have one operation.
"It is in my view not necessarily an advantage to have everything in one location [like Ferrari], so if we can manage to join together working along the same processes that would in my view be the key to a successful operation."
BMW Williams had another disappointing race at the San Marino Grand Prix, finishing fourth with Ralf Schumacher and seventh with Juan Pablo Montoya after qualifying second and fourth.
But Theissen maintained that the team was making progress in the battle to catch McLaren and Ferrari, who are still using their 2002 cars while Williams have a new 2003 machine.
"In this game you should always be worried about your competitors," he said.
"We know from testing that the new Ferrari will be quicker than the old one.
"On the other hand we have improved the performance of our car over the last few months and I'm confident we can be competitive if we keep improving it.
"What we saw in Brazil and here is that we are competitive over one fast lap in qualifying conditions.
"We had a strong first stint here when Ralf was able to control the race, but we also saw we have work to do on race pace."
Theissen admitted that these appear to be caused by the fact that the Williams wears its tyres faster than the McLaren, which is also on Michelins.