After significantly out-scoring both Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa courtesy of his second-placed finish in today's Japanese Grand Prix, Robert Kubica has admitted that his title chances are far from over – especially with BMW-Sauber's reputation for 'making fewer mistakes' than its higher-profile rivals.
Though the Munich and Hinwil-based outfit's F1.08 may no longer even be the third-quickest car on the 2008 Formula 1 grid – Renault having seemingly usurped that mantle in recent weeks – Kubica and the team have certainly been amongst, if not the, most consistent combination, and it is just such consistency that sees the Pole enter the final two races of the season still in with a shout of the drivers' laurels at twelve points adrift of world championship leader Hamilton.
“It's still only an outside chance, but we saw last year how dramatically the tables can turn,” underlined BMW Motorsport Director Dr Mario Theissen in an interview with Motorsports-Magazine.com
. “The whole team is making fewer mistakes – that applies not only to the drivers, but also to our race strategy and our high level of reliability.
“As long as we keep that up in the last two races, everything is possible. We have to look for opportunities presenting themselves and take advantage of errors that are happening ahead of us.”
Kubica's gritty runner-up finish to Fernando Alonso at Fuji Speedway was a fine example of just such an approach, as the Pole artfully avoided all of the opening corner turmoil created by Hamilton's ultra-late braking to vault into the lead from down in sixth on the grid, and he would remain there all the way to his first pit visit 20 laps in.
Whilst unable to keep pace with Alonso after the Spaniard leapfrogged him during the stops, Kubica nevertheless continued to race well in second, doggedly and robustly but fairly fending off a late-race onslaught from defending F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen to claim his seventh rostrum finish of a highly impressive campaign in the top flight, and BMW's eleventh. That not only guarantees that the team lives to fight another day in the battle for the constructors' crown, but Kubica does too in the drivers' scrap.
“My start was good but the clutch slipped a little,” the 23-year-old related of his race, “therefore Jarno Trulli was able to pass me on the straight. I then decided to take the inside line and braked very late, too late actually and I locked the front wheels.
“Everybody went wide, though, while I was more-or-less able to keep my line, and after the second corner I was in front. I then tried to pull away, but I couldn't. My tyres were graining and I lost time, particularly in the last sector. I was pushing as hard as I could, but after the pit-stop Fernando Alonso was in front of me and I was not able to match his pace.
“At the beginning of the final stint the tyres were graining heavily and my lap times were slow, so I came under strong pressure from Kimi Raikkonen and we had a great fight. At one point he was beside me in corner two, but I was on the inside, just didn't back off and was able to keep him behind. After a few laps the graining went away and I was able to run at my normal pace.