Robert Kubica’s leading the championship now but could he still be on top come the end of the season?
Although he scored his maiden victory for the ever-improving BMW team yesterday it’s still hard to see Kubica as a likely champion. Which would make it all the more remarkable if it did happen.
One thing is for sure: you cannot argue that Kubica is leading the championship because he’s got the best car.
All year long a Ferrari or (occasionally) a McLaren has been the car to have. BMW’s F1.08 has been much closer to the leaders than it was last year, but it’s never looked like winning a ‘normal’ race.
BMW were always going to get their first win in one of those races where the track conditions are mixed and the faster cars drop the ball. And that’s exactly what happened yesterday.
The safety car period brought on by Adrian Sutil’s retirement did two things. First it took half the Ferrari/McLaren contingent out of the running as Felipe Massa and Heikki Kovalainen had to take on fuel after their team mates.
And then the other half were taken out of the race entirely, and Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg concertina-d into each other in the pit lane.
This is not to take anything away from Kubica’s achievement. He’d qualified an excellent second and was holding the position before the safety car period, although he had dropped back from Hamilton and Raikkonen was quickly closing in.
Makes no mistakes
But Kubica didn’t just win the race by being quick – he did it by being error-free. And that is somethine where he’s excelled all year.
When Stefano Domenicali and Ron Dennis see Kubica on top of the drivers championship standings they have to acknowledge it’s because he hasn’t made the kind of mistakes their drivers have.
Raikkonen threw his car off the road twice at Melbourne and twice again at Monte-Carlo; Felipe Massa didn’t score in the first two races for much the same reason; Lewis Hamilton has assaulted first Fernando Alonso and now Raikkonen from behind.
Kubica has only failed to score once having been eliminated from the Australian Grand Prix by Kazuki Nakajima in a collision where the BMW driver was utterly blameless. A few more points there and he’d be even further in the lead.
But here’s the crucial question: will he still be leading the championship on the evening of Sunday 2nd November?
It is often said that when a driver wins his first race it helps them raise their game and become more confident. The art of winning races is revealed to them, and further wins come more easily.
I’m not really convinced by that, though. Was Hamilton a better driver after his win here last year? Not really. And the floodgates haven’t exactly opened for Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button have they? Even Alonso had to wait a year and a half for his second win.
No, in F1 what matters is having a fast car. Kubica has excellent in the last two races because they were unpredictable and hectic: Monaco in the wet, and the disintegrating surface at Montreal. His rivals were suckered into mistakes, he kept cool.
But look at the races to come: Magny-Cours, Silverstone, Hockenheimring, Hungaroring. Expect normal, controlled, no-overtaking races. You’d probably get short odds on a Ferrari one-two in all four.
Although I expect his rivals’ cars to be quicker for most if not all of the remaining races Kubica does hold a few cards. I think the new venues of Valencia and Singapore will play into Kubica’s hands. The Ferrari pair will continue to take points off each other as will the McLarens to a lesser extent, while Kubica has beaten Heidfeld in every qualifying session and race so far this year (barring hs Melbourne DNF).
But unless BMW can find a couple more tenths from their car, I can’t see Kubica holding on to his championship lead until the end of the year. What do you think?
Read more about Robert Kubica: Robert Kubica biography