Robert Kubica has admitted that, despite his obvious frustration at not being able to maintain the sort of front-running form he showed at the start of the season, BMW Sauber's 2008 Formula One campaign had been a success.
After taking his first grand prix win, at round seven in Canada, the Pole led the way in the championship standings, but saw his title hopes fade thereafter as developments to the team's F1.08 failed to yield the sort of improvements in performance to keep it in touch with Ferrari and McLaren. Although Kubica kept his own chances open until the penultimate round in China, he really required the pacesetters to slip up.
Despite that, and the occasional barbed comment directed at the team, he remained happy with both his and the car's performance, and hopes that it bodes well for an even more successful campaign in 2009.
“The 2008 season was very long and extremely hard – probably the toughest of my career," he admitted, "Unfortunately, we didn't manage to sustain our pace of development through the second half of the season, but we have made a big leap forward over 2007.
"We had no technical retirements and were in there fighting for the title almost until the end of the season. The team have done a wonderful job and we can be proud of our season, I don't like to give myself too much praise, but I think I drove really well too. I was almost always fast and able to show my potential. However, I'm a person who always wants to win and for me second place is the first loser.”
Kubica's season got off to a disappointing start as, having helped BMW Sauber to overcome its lack of performance in pre-season testing, he found himself removed from fifth place in the Australian Grand Prix by an inattentive Kazuki Nakajima.
From there, however, the first half of the year only got better, as he took second place in Malaysia and then earned the team's maiden F1 pole at round three in Bahrain before again finishing on the podium to help BMW Sauber top the constructors' championship.
The start of the European season saw Ferrari in dominant mood, restricting Kubica to fourth in Barcelona and, after a modest performance in qualifying at Istanbul, a similar result followed in the race. The lottery of a wet race in Monaco allowed the Pole to return to the podium with another second place, but the pinnacle of the year was yet to come, as Kubica and Heidfeld finished one-two in Canada, allowing the Pole to take the lead in the drivers' standings.
From there, however, the entire team's fortunes differed, with Kubica suggesting that it had spent too much time on trying to rectify Heidfeld's qualifying woes. Although the German took second place in the Silverstone lottery, neither returned to the podium until Kubica featured in the top three in Valencia. Heidfeld again capitalised on a rain-affected race at Spa, as Kubica did at Monza, but the leaders were gradually inching out of sight. Despite taking second place in Japan, the Pole's title chances were finally extinguished with sixth spot in China, and he went to Brazil fighting for little but pride.
“I can think of various great moments, especially over the first half of the season – my podium in Malaysia, pole position in Bahrain and, of course, my first race victory in Canada," he reflected, "I'm also very proud of my performance at Fuji - that was probably my strongest race of the year.
"The most frustrating weekend, on the other hand, was the first of the season in Melbourne. I'd had a very disappointing season in 2007 and my race was going really well until Nakajima ran into me....”