BMW's Win at Montreal Marking the End of the Two-Horse Race?
The 2003 season of Formula One was the last time there were three clear contenders for the World Championship, when Williams and McLaren dogged Ferrari all the way to the final race.
2004 saw Ferrari absolutely dominate, with Honda effectively the first loser of the rest of the crowd.
2005 saw an intense battle between Renault and McLaren with Ferrari unable to cope with the new tire rule instituted for that season.
2006 was the first of the "musical teams" seasons, where McLaren went winless for the first time since 1996 and the teams vying for the wins wore Ferrari red or the blue and yellow of Renault.
2007 saw the second rotation, with Renault completely out of the fight and the Silver Arrows returning to make the season a slugging match with Ferrari all the way to Brazil.
Which brings us to the 2008 season. At Montreal, three drivers had won two races each: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), and Felipe Massa (Ferrari). Robert Kubica in the BMW had been nipping at the heels of these two teams for much of the season, hinting at the true pace the BMW possessed, but he had so far not been able to deliver the final word come race day.
Two Sundays ago, that all changed, and BMW gained its first win and 1-2 finish on the same day. Now, Kubica heads the leaderboard, and BMW is right behind Ferrari in the Constructor's standings.
Does this mean BMW is in the fight for real?
Or will their pace fade and the season settle back into the two-team fight that existed pre-Montreal?
The answer is that BMW are quite likely to maintain their performance, and while Robert Kubica may not rack up a string of victories, he may very well win in the way that Keke Rosberg won the 1982 World Championship.
BMW is known for their very technical, pragmatic approach to racing, and as the technical side of the former BMW Williams team had proven their ability to create a race-winning car. Their pit-stops are considered the fastest in the paddock, and with Robert Kubica losing several kilos to give his car an edge, it shows a real physical and mental commitment to victory.
The team's true brilliance shone through in Montreal, where they changed Nick Heidfeld's fuel strategy to a one-stopper and continued to run Kubica on a two-stopper, showing their flexibility and ability to deal with shifting conditions in a way which can yield victory.
It also shows that the team is able to work well with both its drivers, whereas other teams may appear to favor one driver or have one driver/engineer pair clearly dominant.
While it can be argued that Lewis Hamilton or Kimi Raikkonen would have won the race had their collision not occurred, the truth is that Kubica and Heidfeld would have at the very least been right on their tails, if not fighting outright for the lead. And the Canadian Grand Prix has always been chaotic, to say the least. The ability of BMW to respond to difficult situations, adapt sound strategies, and execute them successfully, has proven that they have a formula which can yield victories.
McLaren and Ferrari may prove to have greater flashes of brilliance, but BMW can be counted on to deliver consistent, methodical results. In essentially two years, they have become a front-running team, and it would be a mistake to consider the victory in Montreal a fluke. Their pace is real, and BMW has a real opportunity to win the Driver's or Constructor's championships, or even both.
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