Debate: Can Robert Kubica win the title?

Robert Kubica, Montreal, BMW, 2008, 3, 470150

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.

Champion?

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

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52 comments on Debate: Can Robert Kubica win the title?

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  1. George said on 9th June 2008, 15:45

    I’m afraid that you are probably right Keith. so much does depend on the car. Though, given a sniff of it, it will be interesting to see how much resource BMW can now pour into their development programme over the next few weeks and months in an attempt to close the gap that does exist between them and the two front-running teams.

    Kubica’s situation is, in a way, reminiscent of Hamilton’s last year at this time – as you point out. Whilst he has only just taken his first win, he has consistently been there or thereabouts, and – crucially – not made any errors to date and thus thrown away points. Thus, when they are all added up, he deservedly leads the world championship.

    However, BMW really do need to find some pace if he is to have any realistic chance of sustaining his title challenge over the next couple of races. Now, whether they can do that or not is the really interesting bit.

    One thing that we can no longer doubt, I think, is this – if BMW CAN provide Kubica with a car to fight for race wins over the summer, he is more than good enough to stay in the hunt.

  2. Michael K said on 9th June 2008, 16:04

    The resources will hardly change on such short notice, but of course something like this gives everyone more self-belief at BMW.
    The BMW isn’t all that slow if you look at the qualifying results thes year, but I agree that Ferrari still holds the key to the championship in their own hands. But they have managed to throw away quite a lot this year already, so maybe we will see an Alonso-type of champion again this year…

  3. M Smith said on 9th June 2008, 16:09

    If the situation doesn’t change with BMWs race-pace, I don’t think Kubica will win the championship.

    As you said though, Keith, he deservedly leads the championship by making no errors when his rivals in faster cars have lost their heads. Kubica has more than proved that he is a driver that is capable to take the title – BMW just needs to find two or three more tenths in relation to Ferrari and McLaren.

    Heidfeld might be able to help in the title fight, as even though at the moment he is slower on pace to Kubica, he is by no means slow, and Canada showed us that he is still a very crafty racer. I expect that when one of the McLarens or Ferraris drop back, Heidfeld will be there waiting to steal a point or two from Kubica’s rivals.

    Given Kovalinen’s shortage of results since Spain, and the Ferraris battling with each other, BMW’s constructor hopes look quite strong too.

    The way its going now, it looks to be a very exciting season.

  4. Even Kubica admitted that his car probably didn’t have the pace to win after qualifying in second place, and the way Hamilton opened up a lead prior to the safety car may have been proof. Or fuel strategy.

    I don’t think the BMW’s are consistently fast enough to displace either Ferrari or McLaren, but the current points system (poor in my view) may allow them to steal a title if the Canadian mayhem or rain show up at future races.

    It does however make for an interesting season!

  5. sajonaraman said on 9th June 2008, 16:51

    I agree with you Keith, but only to a certain extent. I really believe that Kubica has a chance to win the season and having seen Kimi and Massa in Monaco with Hamilton’s “what-the-hell?” yesterday I started to believe it even more. I do not think mistakes like those of mentioned drivers will happen in each race but actually why not? Hamilton is incredibly fast as well as Ferrari duo, but sometimes he just loses it totally while Kimi seems to be thinking about permanent vacation hence the lack of emotions after yesterday’s clash. And Massa is just…Massa I guess- fast but not as consistent as Robert despite the car’s advantage. What’s more- the confidence boost that Kubica got along with his first win is going to play a much bigger role than you think Keith. The Pole already is very strong mentally, much stronger than Lewis and even more icey than the Iceman himself- two features that make a champion. The game is on, let’s see what comes up. Just remember: no-one can now match Kubica’s ability to focus during the race. We’ve all seen it a few times this year.

  6. underdog said on 9th June 2008, 17:34

    I hope he did but BMW is not quite there yet. I guess he will continue challenging the front-runners and might win another race this year. 2009 is definitively BMW and Kubika’s year. Unless, of course, Ferrari and McLaren keep running into each other for the remain of the year …

  7. Arun said on 9th June 2008, 17:48

    I keep holding my emotions on BMW’s victory every race since I know the reds and McLarans would pounce back as soon as they can. I keep getting exited during the race watching Kubica’s driving, Nick’s overtakings, (Piquet was awesome for sometime yesterday) and become happy if things like in canada happens. But then, next 3 are gonna be painfully boring and either of the 2 teams are going to win(am I sounding like ‘the doctor’?), but hey, we’ve got a great new driver in Kubica and good team in BMW,(anyone heard radio comments asking Nick to let Alonso through?) The later part of the season is when I will be again with this energy, come Asia, I hope BMW would repeat Canada and get the freaking crown.. I would be waiting to shout ‘all hail the new king’, then..

  8. Daniel said on 9th June 2008, 18:17

    I just don’t see Kovalainen taking that many points out of Hamilton…

    With the current pointscoring system, if Kubica wins another wet/chaotic race, and keeps going to the podium, he’s a real contender, even without the fastest car…

  9. Dorian said on 9th June 2008, 19:36

    Whilst F1 can be unpredictable, as Keith said ‘what matters in F1 is having a fast car’. I agree.

    Yes BMW is getting faster and their reliability is good too and Yes sometimes they can match the race-pace of the Ferraris and the McLarens for a spell. But on the whole, they’re still not quite in the same league as the other two. If it were down to the driver, as Sajonaraman says, Kubica’s on form. But at this stage, BMW are not quite there yet. But I’m really hoping over the remainder of the season and onwards, BMW kept evolving in leaps and bounds and one day they’ll be WC competitive.

    Regardless of the driver, if I had £100 I’d still put it on a Ferrari or a McLaren winning the championship. And if I had to choose between the two of them……I think I’d pick the Ferrari.

  10. Although I have to agree that the BMW isn’t as fast as a Ferrari or McLaren, the way that the ‘top’ teams keep making mistakes, I can see that BMW have nothing to lose by chasing them at every race, as they have been doing on most circuits so far.
    Theres no reason to doubt that now BMW have tasted success, they will want more. I say good luck to them, we don’t want the same old power struggle we get every year. And don’t forget DC and Red Bull will be on a charge from now on too, since they kept up with BMW.
    Also Renault, apart from a little brake trouble, were making a good show for once.

  11. Robert McKay said on 9th June 2008, 21:12

    At least on Kubica’s side the fastest team, Ferrari, have Massa and Raikkonen taking big points off each other. BMW isn’t quite able to fight Mclaren, who only really have Hamilton getting big scores, but if he can get alongside Hamilton and the Ferrari drivers keep battling each other then noone is going to be pulling away yet. And BMW are making the fewest mistakes too.

    But until Kubica wins a race on pure pace it’s going to be hard to believe he’s a bona fide challenger.

  12. Tamil said on 9th June 2008, 22:05

    For sure he can win. The question is- does he want to?…

  13. frecon said on 9th June 2008, 23:21

    Mario Thiessen doesn’t think so, and I trust him.

  14. Wesley said on 10th June 2008, 0:38

    I would have to say that Kubica is an awesome driver but,for now can only pick up the points when they mighty silver,and red teams are having their off days.
    I think BMW will have the proper car next year(or two)to compete.I would LOVE to see Kubica be champion in a BMW.

  15. Gman said on 10th June 2008, 0:54

    It’s tough to say that Kubica will be in the championship hunt at the end of the season- I don’t expect McLaren and Ferrari to mpoe around in the coming races. A key to whatever Robert is able to accomplish is Heidfeld- if he can take points off rival drivers with poits finishes and perhaps a first win, it will go along way for BMW’s chances at both titles.

    If I had to lean one way or the other, I’d say Kubica probably will not be the champion this season, but there’s no question that he will figure in the mix as the other teams and drivers battle it out.

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