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. 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 …

  2. Mario Peeters
    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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. @ 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)…

  6. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr
    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

  7. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr
    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

  8. Alonso follower
    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".

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. Alonso Follower: Alonso’s contributions to MacLaren team last year were clearly undervaluated. Let’s hope that Renault fixes his problems on time.

    Is that not a contradiction? Alonso tested the Renault extensively before the season commenced, if he had the talent to make it go faster he would have told Renault what exactly the problems with the car were.

  12. By the way – I don’t read ALL threads in the blog because I sometimes don’t have access to the internet for several days, so maybe this is old news, but: Had anyone seen this:  ?

    No more mechanics being run over by japanese drivers, it seems…

  13. Hi Keith,

    Just wanted to throw in my two bits… and probably give you another point to ponder over… I think Jackie Stewart said that the driver of the race for him was Fisichella… that got me thinking… the actual winner of the race… who is the one person who would have felt really proud of this race? Not Domencialli… but Peter Sauber… think of it all the top four drivers have him in common… and as of last Sunday… all four of them could be the world champ this year… what do you think?

  14. It is much as difficult to foresee if the Flying Lobster BMW goes to be winner or not ( the  prettiest car as Enzo Ferrari would say, because it is the first now)

  15. I don’t think BMW can win with this drivers… the cars are OK.

  16. Harkirat, I agree. Peter Sauber (along with Eddie Jordan, and to a certain extent, Flavio Briatore and Paul Stoddart) were very good judges to talent.  These guys have a knack of knowing who will  be truly competitive in F1.  Quite a talent to have.  :)

  17. BMW might very well be contenders this year, but I think they will be WCC contenders not WDC contenders.

    BMW has shown real pace so far in all the races.  But I think Ferrari will still get the better of both Mclaren and BMW. Ferrari knows how to win, in all the races so far both BMW and Mclaren have had some strange strategies for the races. Like BMW where one driver is on pole and the other in 6th place, and both teams have placed their drivers on strange long stints during the races, with which sometimes seems to be with the wrong tyre choices. BMW’s pace on Sunday wasn’t to far off from Ferrari’s pace, Kubica had a definite chance to finish in second place his pace was there. But still Raikkonen managed to pass him, it just seemed like BMW where outsmarted by Ferrari on Sunday. I get the feeling that BMW are going at this very conservatively, they try to cover all their basis and it seems like they are concentrating more on the WCC at this stage. But as the year progresses they will properly gain more experience.

    Interestingly enough both  Domencialli and Raikkonen feels that BMW will definitely be a thread this year, while Ron Dennis has come out and said that BMW will fall back and not challenge for the championships. So is this a case of being overly cautious or misjudging the enemy?

    Another interesting thing is that so far it has seemed like Maclaren are generating some controversies at almost every race, while BMW and even Ferrari have been keeping relatively quiet and to themselves.

    Time will tell, but so far this is shaping up to be an interesting championship battle. 

  18. i think they have- a fair chance.  they’ve been steadily coming up for 2 seasons now so i don’t think resting on dubious laurels is a habit with them. nor is disorganization.  and let’s not forget the great equalizers: chance and error.

    #26 (name is too long to even copy/paste) the point is hamilton did climb the back of alonso.  and kimi has 1 championship under him not 3 because wings fell off, engines blew up and were any of us feeling too comfortable last year, 3 races from the end in predicting kimi would take that one?  actually, was anyone banking on it even after the last race ended?

    i think both kubica and heidfeld have the head and the talent for it.  and bmw may just have a few surprises for mclaren and ferrari.  what could possibly be wrong with a 3 team battle?   and i mean "team; because they all have strong driver pairings capable of taking on their teammates and everyone else’s., too 

  19. I think BMW will have a chance, and Ron saying that they won’t is proof to me that they are and that he thinks so too. Normally anyone would say something like "we’ll have to see" and "you can never discount anyone", but coming out and saying that you don’t think they will challenge sounds to me like some sort of mind-games, especially after just being beaten.
    I agree with the line of thought that they will definetely challenge McLaren and might even beat them, but that Ferrari is too far for them. But, you should never discount anyone and we’ll have to see ;-)

  20. Could you imagen a BMW+Alonso… That’s a winning formula!

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