Are BMW championship contenders?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Nick Heidfeld, Heikki Kovalainen, Bahrain, 2008, 470150

When Robert Kubica put his BMW second on the grid at Melbourne I asked just how fast are BMW – and quite a few of you were cautious not to predict big things for them on the strength of one qualifying performance.

Now three races in they’ve had their first pole position and are leading the constructors’ championship – although they haven’t won a race yet. F1’s other two big teams – McLaren and Ferrari – disagree over how much of a threat BWM are.

Ferrari’s Stefano Domenicali reckons:

[Robert] Kubica did a very nice, positive race. On the podium he told me he struggled a bit when dealing with the oil in the first corners. But the pace he and BMW have deserves respect. He is a driver who I believe will be in the title fight until the end.

Lewis Hamilton, who’s had his share of run-ins with Kubica, would probably agree with that assessment. But his McLaren boss Ron Dennis is cool on BMW’s prospects:

I think that we respect all competitors and [BMW are] doing a better job than they’ve done at any other time in their involvement in F1.

But it is when we get to Europe that the R&D and speed of manufacture starts to make a difference. We’ll be very strong and I’m not at all unduly worried about the future. It will be a fight right through the season.

That may be the case but BMW clearly beat McLaren in the last two races. At the very least I think they can be a ‘real’ second in the constructors’ championship this year. But I’m not sure they’re quick enough yet to beat Ferrari.

Do you think BMW can win races and challenge for the championship this year?

56 comments on “Are BMW championship contenders?”

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  1. In a word, no.

  2. In another word, yes.

  3. In a third word, maybe. If Ferrari and McLaren keep alternating with each other and alternating their successes with rubbish weekends, then BMW would sail through the middle and become champions. If either Ferrari or McLaren stabilises their bad days though, BMW’s challenge will keel over.

  4. Not enough to beat Ferraris, but maybe enough to fight with Mclaren.

    P.S.  look at the video i have posted three articles before. really interesting

  5. They are edging Mclaren right now, so why Mclaren can and they don’t? The problem is that BMW didn’t won any race yet, so people are playing them down, but if they can… Then they will be there!

  6. I said at the begining of the season that Kubica was my driver for this year, and I still believe he’ll fight for it until the last race. And I think BMW might not have the structure that McLaren and Ferrari have, but the drivers are a perfect pair, much better than the other two pairs. It’s not like Raikkonnen REALLY cares, he’s just having fun, and Massa cares a lot, too much, so he pushes it beyond his limits and always screws up. And both of them seem to be erratic when setting up their cars. They do marvelous races and crappy races. Kovalainen and Hamilton are rookies, and that’s the truth. Good rookies, but rookies. And I insist – Ferrari’s edge was Schumacher, who knew how to set up a darned car. And he was only matched by Alonso, who’s now back on mark zero. That’s why BMW is catching up – no Schumacher or Alonso for Ferrari or McLaren. I really hope Renault and Red Bull and Williams can prove me right and give one step closer to the "big teams" also.

  7. No. 

    I actually quite like BMW, I like the way they’ve gone about quietly building the team and working their way up to the top.  I particularly liked the fact that last year they weren’t really interested in second place, instead feeling that it wasn’t *truly* earned.

    BMW are only where they are now because the other two teams (and this includes both cars and drivers) have been less ‘reliable’.  I don’t feel that they have the raw pace yet (Kubica was light on Sunday) to beat the other two.  Once (and this assumes they can) the other two stop dropping silly points (e.g. Massa spinning off, the McLaren grid place penalties and Hamilton’s rather dozy Bahrain efforts) BMW will fall back a little and we’ll see them taking up their role in (a much improved) third place.  I see this year will be for them as 1996 was for McLaren.  Next year could be very different.

  8. Clive, Clive…  BMW beat McLaren, a definite maybe, and I hope they do. But they have no REALISTIC chance of challenging Ferrari this year. You can dream and believe all you want, but it ain’t gonna happen. 

  9. You can count on Massa spinning off and Kimi sleeping at the wheel, Green Flag.

  10. FLIG – Let’s compare notes on November 3, OK?

  11. Alianora has a point… I just wanna add that, with the current pointscoring system, BMW will be a real contender, even without Ferrari’s or McLaren’s pace, if the leading teams have three or four DNFs during the season, which is unlikely, but not impossible…

    As for BMW matching their pace, or at least McLaren’s, in the long term, only time will tell…

  12. i dont think bmw can challenge both ferrari and mclaren for the championship, as great schumi said they will fade away in midseason.

  13. FLIG, you make some very good points, but I would not exactly classify the McLaren drivers as rookies anymore. Still, I think McLaren and Ferrari do lose a bit from not having the tech feedback provided by Schumi or Fernando. The BMW drivers apparently do get along well and compliment each other on and off the track- I don’t hear much about them in the press, but perhaps that’s a good thing.
    As for those of you who suggest that BMW is simply benifiting from McLaren and Ferrari slipping up, the results speak for themselves. If BMW has performed more consistently than McLaren over these 3 races, then they have the better team at this point. I like McLaren and respect Ferrari, but fans just coming into the sport, such as myself, don’t want to see just two teams at the top of the stadings.
     Perhaps BMW can’t yet match the raw speed of the traditional frontrunners, but they’ve been the most consistent, and that’s why they currently sit in first place. Perhaps the power teams will start to dominate after they make adjustments, but maybe BMW will make adjustments and stay in the fight.
    Will BMW keep it up? I sure hope so.

  14. Green Flag, Green Flag, you assume that because Ferrari has the best car at two races, that will last all season.  Dangerous assumption – just look at last year.  So far this year, BMW have had the second quickest car at all three races and that means they have been better than both McLaren and Ferrari at least once.

    The difference between us is that I expect them to get better still, you expect that the usual top two will maintain whatever their gap is to the rest from now on.  Even ignoring the driver factor that others have brought into the equation, it is extremely unlikely that one team will have the fastest car at all of the remaining races.  BMW have shown that they are there amongst the big boys already – why is it so difficult to see that they are very likely to hit the front on occasion?

    In fact, I think BMW will improve more than the others throughout the year so that, by the second half of the season, they will have the quickest car at most circuits.  That is a guess based on observation and might or might not prove to be true.  But it would be foolish to discount them at this stage.

    Will they win a race?  Definitely.  Will they challenge for the championship?  Well, they’re leading it already…

  15. Clive –  BMW have been very fortunate these first three races, while Ferrari and McLaren have been particularly unfortunate – I include technical problems, accidents, driver errors and penalties under misfortunes.  Don’t be deceived by BMW’s good performances – others’ misfortune is the only reason they’re leading the constructor standings. However, over the course of the year misfortunes tend to even out and BMW will be relegated to third place, or lower.  As I said before, let’s compare notes on November 3.

  16. It’s a date, Green Flag.  :D

  17. As much as I like three teams fighting for the win, I love the fact that Ferrari and McLaren are superior to BMW (right right, we’ll see the bimmers fade into midseason), why?

    Well, because it really sends a message that the traditional teams, the teams that are not (at least fully) owned by a manufacturer (aka BMW, Honda, Toyota, Ford with Jaguar, etc), can kick their butts at ease.

    BMW? BMW who? This is F1, and manufacurers are still not the best kids in town.

    If only Team Willy could do the same :(

  18. Until BMW can master their setups to take advantage of the Bridgestone’s for race conditions they will not win a race or the title.

    It’s one thing to qualify well, but their race pace seems to fade as their tires grain and/or wear.

  19. Are they contenders?  Ask me after Spain, we’ll have a better idea then.

    Haplo, I think you forgot about Renault’s run in 2005 and 2006.  Also, Ferrari IS owned by a manufacturer (Fiat), the only caveat being that are ALWAYS a racing team first BEFORE a manufacturer.  And there’s always that rumor that Mercedes is about to buy out McLaren any time now…

  20. George, I think they DO have good race pace.  Not excellent yet or great, but good.  Most notable example: Heidfeld set the FL at Sepang towards the end of the race (as well as his stint on his tyres).

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