Compliments don't come much more treasured than the one paid to the BMW Sauber team by Michael Schumacher last week.

The seven-times world champion bestowed fulsome praise on the F1.08 contender, saying that he expected them to be one of the most impressive performers of the 2008 season; perhaps capable of ruffling the feathers of established front runners Ferrari and McLaren. 

"I would expect to see a very close fight between the two main teams, but then I would also expect to see Renault and BMW able to close the gap and they may enter into the top two," he observed.

Flattered by Schumacher's comments, BMW Sauber duly signalled its determination not to disappoint him in the bid to become the third front running force from the very start of the 2008 world championship which gets underway in Melbourne on March 16.

The team's new F1.08 challenge builds on the technology already honed to an impressively fine edge from last year's car which ended up second to Ferrari in the constructors' world championship, albeit only after McLaren's tally of points was wiped from the record book after they were found guilty of illegally acquiring Ferrari technical data.

Drivers Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica, who finished fifth and sixth in the 2007 drivers' championship, have been retained for another year, a major factor in what the team hopes will be a seamless transition into the season when they score their first grand prix victory.

"I am very, very excited because I know people in the factory are happy with the progress," said Heidfeld, who is still chasing his first grand prix win after 132 races. "It is the most beautiful car I have seen. I know it doesn't mean anything for speed but I am looking forward to the next few weeks."

The 30-year old German driver admitted that his goal for 2008 is to score that so-far elusive first win, but he remains cautious about his prospects. He's a shrewd lad as well as a first rate driver. I think Quick Nick is poised to get the job done.