Over the following four days; today, Friday, Monday and Tuesday, BlogF1 is being handed over to four excellent writers from the field of Formula One blogging. Each writer has submitted a post comparing the team mates from the top four squads, and having read through them, you are all in for a real treat. First up is Clive Allen from F1 Insight. Clive’s blog has become a real treasure to read with well-thought out and explanatory pieces. I’m not ashamed to say I get excited when I see F1 Insight updates in my feed reader.
Today though, Clive is talking about one of his favourite teams, BMW. Take it away my good man…
Apart from the battle between drivers for the WDC, another contest takes place within the teams: each driver’s fight to be better than his team mate. And it seems to me that the most interesting of the forthcoming struggles will be between the two BMW drivers, Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica. They form an excellent pairing, so well matched in their differing abilities that they are very hard to separate.
Often referred to as Quick Nick, the German has been in F1 long enough to be considered an old hand and many deem that he has had his chance and never come up to expectations. It is true, too, that he has not displayed that star quality so evident in drivers like Raikkonen and Alonso. General consensus remains that he is competent yet uninspired, quick but without that something extra needed to be a champion.
Yet Nick does have something that is easily overlooked. I was listening to a recent podcast from Formula 1 Blog and the presenters, partially in jest, really nailed that extra quality that Nick possesses; they decided he was the driver they would least like to meet down a dark alley one night, in spite of his mere 5′ 5″ height. Strangely, that says it all about Heidfeld – his quietness gives a hint of the fierce determination that resides within.
With Robert Kubica in the second BMW, Nick needs every ounce of his resolve to stay ahead. The Pole arrived in F1 with a bang, scoring a point on his first outing and grabbing third spot in the Italian GP of 2006. He seemed to be a very bright prospect for BMW in the following season as a result.
After a slow start and a horrendous crash in the Canadian GP, Robert began to pay off on those expectations and, by the end of the year, he was matching Nick for pace. In testing during the winter break, he has been consistently setting the quickest BMW times and it looks once again as though he will carry this over into the coming season.
And I will admit that Robert makes me fear for my prediction of Heidfeld for 2008 champion. But I console myself with this thought: Kubica has always looked very quick in testing. Throughout 2006, he was so often at the top of the time sheets that it made perfect sense for Mario Theissen to give him a few races in Villeneuve’s car. But his race performance is not quite so convincing. It may be that Robert has a lot to learn before he can convert his testing speed into race positions.
It’s a slim hope for me, however. Robert learned a lot in his first season and can only get better. He seems to have come to terms with the problems of the F1.08 faster than his team mate and so may start the early races with a lead on Nick. But I will stick by my original guess and must therefore say that Nick’s experience and determination will see him through another year of scoring more points than Kubica. After that, it’s most likely that the Pole will gain the upper hand.
Whatever happens, this BMW pairing promises to be the fiercest and most interesting of all the team mate battles. Hamilton/Kovalainen could be close, Alonso/Piquet may have potential for fireworks, but the most likely outcome for both pairings is that a number one will swiftly emerge. With Heidfeld/Kubica the struggle will last all year and the final outcome is very difficult to call. They won’t push each other off but, at the same time, you can bet they will not be doing each other any favours!
Clive writes for F1 Insight.