Robert Kubica’s sensational victory at Montreal this weekend may not have been expected, but was none-the-less deserved. We shouldn’t be surprised that BMW’s main charge has become the 99th man to win a Grand Prix because his driving has been simply awesome throughout 2008. Kubica has been qualifying and racing superbly in a car that suits his aggressive style and he now finds himself leading the World Drivers Championship.
Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen will likely usurp the Pole before too long, but we shouldn’t rule him out of title contention. Robert Kubica has a genuine chance at landing the sport’s biggest prize.
The current Formula One points system rewards consistency and that is currently Kubica’s speciality. With the exception of Australia he has finished in the top four at every event and if he can keep those podiums coming he will be a serious championship challenger.
Kimi Raikkonen almost won the 2003 title despite taking just a single race win, so perhaps Kubica can do the same.
BMW have tasted championship success in the past thanks to their consistency. In 1983 the German manufacturer was supplying engines to Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham team and with Nelson Piquet at the wheel they claimed the F1 title despite having to battle against the much faster Renaults.
Every time that Alain Prost and Rene Arnoux faltered, Nelson Piquet was there to pick up the pieces. Mario Theissen was working for BMW in 1983 so he might just find that experience handy at the moment.
It will be interesting to see if the old Sauber team can sustain their performance.
Kubica’s victory is the latest triumph for BMW who have already created a strong legacy in motorsport. The German manufacturer has enjoyed huge success across many types of racing all around the world.
The Bavarian Motor Works company started out making aeroplane engines in 1913, but branched out into motorcycles ten years later. Their bikes were built to the highest standards of quality and won over 200 races within a two year period. BMW capped this off in 1937 by setting the motorcycle land speed record.
When BMW got serious about building cars, and stopped bolting four wheels onto a motorcycle engine, they had similar levels of racing success.
They won their first major event in 1940 at the ferocious Millie Miglia. The open road contest was cancelled in 1957 due to the inherent dangers of racing a giant 1000 kilometre lap around Italy, but it was considered one of the greatest motorsport events in the world. It was right up there with the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, so BMW’s early triumph was no small achievement.
Although the company continued to win motorcycle championships all over the world, their attention gradually switched to four wheeled competition and they focussed particularly on touring car racing.
BMW started running in various tin top championships throughout Europe, but could never have imagined just how much they would come to dominate.
BMW won the European Touring Car Championship on 14 occasions, and have also claimed 21 national titles. That is unheard of, and there are some claims the BMW M3 is the most victorious racing car of all time.
It is also worth noting that one BMW’s early challengers was the first car to lap the Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit in less than ten minutes.
Whilst this was going on BMW became active in open wheel racing. They supplied engines to several Formula Two outfits before deciding to build their own chassis. Although they quickly reverted back to being just an engine supplier, they managed to win six championships.
By the 1980’s BMW had developed a healthy track record and therefore made the bold decision to enter Formula One. They spent two years constructing an engine that would be used by Brabham for the 1982 season and it was so powerful that the BMW dynamometers could not keep up with it! The 1400bhp turbocharged monster was based on a road car engine block and was an instant hit.
At BMW’s first ever Grand Prix both of their engines locked out the front row. They didn’t score the race victory that weekend, but they did reach the winners circle in their debut season. Quite interestingly that first win came at Montreal.
BMW suffered some reliability issues in 1982 but these were resolved for the following year when Nelson Piquet won the World Championship.
It was the only F1 title that BMW won because they left Grand Prix racing at the end of the turbo era.
They didn’t stay out of the sport for long though.
When Mercedes emerged as a Grand Prix force with McLaren, BMW decided they should follow suit and returned to F1 with Williams in 2000. Although there were plenty of early hurdles, BMW ended up producing (arguably) the best engine in Formula One. Unfortunately Williams could not build the car to batch and the relationship infamously broke down.
Buying the Sauber Formula One team and constructing their own car was BMW’s final frontier, and now they have taken that crucial first win.
A World Championship may shortly be within reach.
Ferrari and McLaren are very close this season and we appear to have the same situation that we had last year where different circuits suit different cars. BMW have been able to split the two leading teams at almost every round, so if they cannot beat both of them they can at least beat one of them.
Robert Kubica is in with a real chance.
Poland’s sole racing hero has taken victory in just about every car he has driven. He started driving Go Karts before he was old enough to compete professionally so by the time he was allowed to travel and race against the world’s best he absolutely dominated. He won karting titles all over Europe before advancing into Formula Renault with the same excellent results.
He joined Heikki Kovalainen in the Renault F1Driver Development program six years ago, but was dropped despite a few promising tests. Flavio Briatore may now be ruing the day he let Kubica slip through his fingers.
Mario Theissen has a good eye for talent, and signed the youngster as BMW’s third driver in 2006. He was brilliant in the Friday practice sessions and was promoted into the race team as soon as the opportunity arose.
Kubica outqualified Nick Heidfeld on his Grand Prix debut, and just five weeks later he was standing on the podium at Monza.
His coming of age has timed perfectly with that of his team. Robert Kubica and BMW Sauber have grown up together and seem to be the ideal match, in much the same way that Hamilton and McLaren are.
Maybe now they’re destined for great things.
If Theissen can convince Nick Heidfeld to act as a sturdy number two driver for the remainder of 2008, we might just have a three coloured battle for the title.
It brings back memories of 1999 when Heinz Harald Frentzen almost won the World Championship for Jordan. Is he can do it than so can Robert.
Either way, we’re about to find out.