BMW had a brilliant year with a competitive car which, though it never troubled the front runners, usually kept them well clear of the chasing pack.
An overall second place in the constructors’ championship will be difficult to repeat next year, though.
The strongest compliment you can pay to BMW is that within a few races of the season starting they were clearly the best of the rest behind Ferrari and McLaren and no-one ever looked like usurping them.
The Munich team got everything right that Honda got wrong last year. The F1.07 was a sensible evolution of last year’s effective F1.06.
It only suffered reliability problems very early in the season, most of which were ironed out away from the track, and at the end of the year when they seemed to be pushing development on the transmission in advance of next year’s four-race gearbox rules.
That they could afford to do because although McLaren and Ferrari were always out of reach Renault seldom seemed like they were about to beat them.
Unfortunately a rare failure quite likely robbed Robert Kubica and BMW of their maiden victories. Smart strategy in the mixed conditions put Kubica into the lead – until the gearbox gave up.
It was a tough car as well. Robert Kubica emerged unscathed from a ferocious crash that would have had dire consequence in the years before the FIA’s crash tests.
His enforced absence from the following round at Indianapolis gave the team chance to display the strength of its backup drivers. Teenager Sebastian Vettel stepped into the car, stuck it into the top ten and scored a point on his debut with little fuss.
This as the team suffered another set back that weekend. Over-zealous American immigration rules barred Kubica’s race engineer Mehmi Admadi (who would have been working on Vettel’s car) from entering the country.
Kubica had been trailing Nick Heidfeld before the shunt and afterwards their performances remained pretty similar. This surprised many in the paddock, who expected 2006 revelation Kubica to give Heidfeld a harder time. It was suggested that Kubica, like Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso, had a harder time adapting to Bridgestone’s revised 2007 tyres.
Heidfeld stepped up to the task of leading F1′s third-best team. He held second for much of the season opener, put a smart pass on Alonso at Bahrain, and at Montreal became the first driver outside of McLaren and Ferrari to reach the podium – a timely boost for the team given Kubica’s crash.
But Heidfeld also committed the blunder of the year for the team. A clumsy lunge at Kubica on the first lap at the Nürburgring sent both drivers spinning out. On a day of mixed weather and mixed fortunes the BMWs that had started fourth and fifth might have been in the running for the win.
This was one of the ways in which, despite their clear best of the rest status, BMW often failed to capitalise on days when the leaders hit trouble. They were all at sea in Fuji and when Kubica did play the conditions to perfection in Shanghai his car broke.
There’s no denying 2007 was a magnificent season for BMW and the bonus of finishing second in the constructors’ championship thanks to the exclusion of (Mercedes-backed) McLaren will go down well with the board.
It also gives them a very high target to aim for next year.
Photos: BMW Media