BMW Blog would like to welcome Mr. Stefan Lombard. He will be our Formula 1 specialist and will bring you the latest news, insights and photos from the F1 world. Having many years of experience as a Managing Editor at Sports Car Market magazine and owner of Drivinglines.com, Stefan will offer you some interesting insight into BMW power at 19,000 RPM.
Throughout winter testing, word on the street was that BMW had slipped back. F1 know-betters all seemed to agree that Ferrari had leaped farthest forward, while McLaren had gained as well.
BMW, they said, would be left to fight amongst the Toyotas, Renaults, Williams, and Red Bulls for grand prix table scraps. In the F1 world, as in the real, road car world, it pains me to think of BMW and Toyota fighting for the same things.
I’ll happily agree that Ferrari could just be the team to beat this season. Last year’s World Champion, Kimi Raikkonen, is very close to peerless in the sport, and while plenty of people offer plenty of opinions as to why Fernando Alonso could trounce him in equal machinery, or how Lewis Hamilton really is the second coming of (insert deity here), Raikkonen is a finisher, plain and simple. Football World Cups and Formula One World Championships begin and end with men like him.
Up there with the Ferraris, it’s hard to argue against the bright and shiny McLarens. Hamilton is a talent, to be sure, and the young Finn Heikki Kovalainen may just have what it takes to be a menacing number two, if he can keep his wits and his priorities about him.
But it is the white and blue BMW Saubers that most interest me. Piloted by two of F1’s low-key quick men, German Nick Heidfeld and Pole Robert Kubica, the whole operation seems to fly beneath the radar, despite its organizational enormity and the resources Mr. and Mrs. BMW have so charitably allocated to the pursuit of world glory. I mean, the biggest splash made by the team in all of 2007 was the utterly spectacular shunt Kubica suffered at the hairpin in Canada last summer. What a way to sprain your ankle!
So here we are. It’s mid-March and the Grand Prix of Australia begins in less than 24 hours. Heading into qualifying, those same know-betters lazily predicted a Ferrari front row, a McLaren second row, and then something of a free for all, with the spoils divvied up among Alonso’s Renault, a Red Bull or two, fast-lapping Jarno Trulli and his Toyota. The BMWs. All the way down to the detritus of the F1 small-spenders.
Heck, on Thursday following practice, even BMW team principal Mario Theissen held little hope. “I don’t expect us to be in a position to win a race early on in the season,” he said, “but we still have the target to get there in the course of the season.”
And then Kubica goes and propels himself and his Bavarian single-seater straight to the front row, a missed exit on turn 12 the only thing preventing him from creating that sensational headline we’ve all been dying to see since he entered the sport: Pole on Pole! Missed it by .155 seconds, he did.
For the start then it will be Hamilton, Kubica, Kovalainen, Felipe Massa in the Ferrari, then Heidfeld. Kimi hit bad luck with a fuel regulator and will have to pluck his way up from 16th. Not a bad way to start things off, fellas. Not bad at all.
Photos courtey of BMW Motorsports.
Update: Lewis Hamilton has won the first race of the season.