Criminally Underrated: Robert Kubica Will Have His Say in the Title Race

Ian RichardsonCorrespondent IOctober 15, 2008

BMW's Robert Kubica became a surprise third runner in this year's increasingly tense title race, after a supremely consistent drive in Japan.

Hoping against hope, no doubt he harbours ambitions of pulling a proverbial Raikkonen (circa 2007) and dramatically pipping both championship favourites to the post.

With a 12-point deficit, the odds are most certainly against him.

The Pole, with a maturity behind the wheel that puts this year's championship leaders firmly in the shade, has quietly accumulated 72 points.

There have been no dramas and no controversies. What there has been, in abundance, is a consummate display of consistency and professionalism.

Taking a look at the season so far in rough terms, raw numbers tell their own story. At the half-way point (in Silverstone), Kubica had accrued 46 points (winning the Canadian Grand Prix and finishing on the podium three times).

In comparison, both Hamilton and Massa had tallied 48 points (three victories, and two podiums each).

In the seven races since Silverstone, Kubica seems to have lost ground, winning 26 points with three podiums. In the same races, Hamilton has scored 36 points (with victory in Germany and two podium appearances) and Massa 31 points (two wins and a single third place).

In the season so far, then, both Hamilton and Massa have a rough average of finishing in fourth position.

Kubica can claim an average third position. His secret is his consistency; while Hamilton and Massa have crossed the line in 13th and 17th, respectively, Kubica's worst showing saw him come in 11th. (All have suffered retirements, imposed through mechanical fault or human error.)

These numbers, useful though they are, tell only half a story. In 2008, the World Championship seems certain to lie with the driver who has made the fewer mistakes.

Both Hamilton and Massa, though often demonstrating sublime talent, have made errors unfitting of their status as world-class racing drivers.

Their mistakes have incurred the attention of race stewards to an unprecedented and unwelcome degree.

In a very real sense, the World Champion determines the story of the season. Last year, Kimi Raikkonen wrote a tale of a last-minute challenge emerging from an unexpected direction.

This year, I fear the story may be one of penalties and controversy.

It is comforting, then, to know that, in the background, there are still drivers working quietly to climb the ladder and earn the title on merit.

Kubica's denouncement of Hamilton's dangerously aggressive tactics clearly indicates his frustration. He believes, correctly, that he should be considered seriously as a contender and not as a wildcard.

Pundits and commentators have highlighted the fact that BMW decided against development of the 2008 car in favour of focusing on the 2009 entry.

Their fear of Ferrari and McLaren's dominance has denied them a chance to entertain a very real chance of clinching the title. It has also denied Kubica the truly competitive car that he deserves.

Despite this, Kubica will not doubt take comfort in the fact that he will have his say in this year's season finale. He is punching far above the car's weight.

Amid the high tension and ferocious competition between Hamilton and Massa, Kubica has become a factor that neither McLaren nor Ferrari can afford to ignore.