Are BMW championship contenders?

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?

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56 comments on Are BMW championship contenders?

  1. It’s a date, Green Flag.  :D

  2. 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 :(

  3. 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.

  4. Journeyer said on 8th April 2008, 5:57

    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…

  5. Journeyer said on 8th April 2008, 5:59

    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).

  6. They may not have car that is quicker than Ferrari. But all they need is car quicker than McLaren (looks like it at this moment) and more reliable than Ferrari. String of 2nd-3rd places for BMW combined with few DNFs for Ferrari is all that is needed. Just look at the table after first 3 races…

    And when it comes to speed, Kubica was able to match the Ferraris for big part of the Bahrain race. Qualifying on pole is possible for them, that we saw in Australia (P2 after mistake) and in Bahrain (P1). Next step is to keep that P1 beyond the Turn 1 and then anything can happen …

  7. Mario Peeters said on 8th April 2008, 7:44

    I think they will replace Mclaren at the top in the next few races but won’t be able to challenge Ferrari. Mclaren won’t be able to keep up developing and will start to miss the technical input of Alonso ( remember once Alonso stepped into the Mclaren it suddenly was a winning car) and you can already see that Hamilton and Heiki do not have the experience to steer the development inthe right direction.

    As for BMW this is not their year yet but I think they want to prove to someone like Alonso that they can provide him with a winning car next year….  Alonso is constantly saying that next year he wants to drive in a car that can win the championship and everybody is linking him to Ferrari but in my view, a BMW & Alonso combination has as much championship winning potiential as Ferrari.

  8. Think about it this way. If Kubica finished every race second with Ferrari and Mclaren (let’s say Lewis and Kimi for the sake of it) swapping between first and third at alternating tracks then Kubica would walk it. Throw Massa and Heiki into the mix for the odd few races and he still has a good chance. What really matters then is how poorly the lower of those two teams are at each race, and whether he can beat just one of the team on top.

    I would suggest that it is possible.

  9. Sri said on 8th April 2008, 8:26

    Milos: I completely agree with ya
    Andrew: Interesting and very much possible
    Mario Peeters: Well, last year and at the beginning of this year, we heard a lot of people rubbishing Alonso and what he could have contributed to a team. Hmm, i guess Alonso was right.

  10. @ Mario Peeters – the point about next year is, nobody knows what car will be the race and championship winning car. the new rules and new cars may totally mix up the order we know now … In my opinion the best for each driver for 2009 is to stay put where they are now and see (if teams kee them)…

  11. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr said on 8th April 2008, 9:24

    i dont think so i think they are definitley closaer this year but i dont think kubica would have beaten hamilton had he not smashed into the back of alonso. the front row in oz and the pole in bahrain were because of light fuel loads rather than raw pace. although i think they will definitley mix up the order at the top, i said yesterday id like to see hamilton doing what kubica has been, qualifying lighter to get ahead of the rivals because neither bmw or maclaren has got the pace on the ferrari so they are going to have to try different things if they want to beat them and so far its working for bmw, kubica has had 2 good displays and heidfeld as usual picking up points quietly. i hope they win a race this year but if they do i think it will be because of ferrari and maclaren messing up rather than bmw being quicker

  12. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr said on 8th April 2008, 9:45

    Phil B i think you mean this year for bmw will be like 1997 for maclaren assuming you mean that they will become more competitive as sthe season goes on maybe win a couple of races and then next year have the quickest car.

    as for people saying maclaren only had a winning car because alonso was there last year i think are totally wrong, most teams would have finished designing their cars for the next season months before, i dont think alonso would have had any real input on the design of the car, they might have made a few changes to the car in pre season with advice from alonso but you cant say that alosno was the only reason and i think evdience of that is the fact that surley alonso would have been given advice to the team to make the car better for him, and then hamilton out performed him for the majoriuty of the season

  13. Alonso follower said on 8th April 2008, 10:10

    Oh, poor MacLaren. Has anyone noticed? Last year they were consistently beating Ferrari. This year they struggle and have started to hear BMW noise behind.
    Alonso’s contributions to MacLaren team last year were clearly undervaluated. Let’s hope that Renault fixes his problems on time.
    I wait to see Kimi and Fernando battle for the title, while Hamilton is still learning to use the buttons of his driving wheel. Let’s not see Dennis creating a "Fisher Price" version with just one button that says "make this go faster".

  14. FLIG said on 8th April 2008, 10:48

    To say that Alonso was what made McLaren a fast car is an exaggeration. I’m an Alonso fan, but it took him 2 years to work with Renault to the top. When he got to McLaren he found a good team with a good car, which he added some tenths of performance to. He’s good, not a magician, and though I still believe he’ll help improve Renault again, they’re performing very poorly, which shows he’s not "instant improvement". As to Ferrari x McLaren x BMW, I agree with Clive. What makes everyone think Ferrari and McLaren will improve and BMW will just sit tight and see the gap grow back again? You have to have in mind that they were Sauber not long ago, dreaming of a distant podium. They have been evolving MUCH faster than Ferrari and McLaren, and if the pattern continues, they will soon arrive, go by and leave them eating dust.

  15. I think BMW have a had a great opening to the season, and with Ferrari’s reliability issues and McLaren’s ‘issues’ they stand a great chance of being in the title battle throughout the season. I’m also really interested in everyone’s thoughts on Hamilton and Alonso, could public opinion really be changing about the two of them? Either way it’s shaping up to be a fantastic season!

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