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GP Week : Issue 36
#3 – Robert Kubica – BMW SOLID. Assured. Committed. Robert Kubica was like a metronome for 90 percent of the Formula 1 season. Only a dire last few races took the shine off what was a genuinely incredible year for the Polish BMW star. With a first pole position of his career as early as Bahrain, the expectation at the BMW camp was high. And rightfully so. After a promising 2007, the 2008 season was shaping up rather well and with a powerful and reliable car, the team knew that every mistake made by the if two teams would fall straight into their laps. What they needed was to make sure that they were in the position to make that profit. Under Kubica’s steady hand, they found themselves exactly where they needed to be. In Canada, when Hamilton and Raikkonen collided and Massa was forced to make an unscheduled pit-stop, the Pole it was who collected the team’s first victory. He picked up seven podiums and only failed to score in four races all season, taking his championship tally up to 75, equal with Raikkonen but losing out on third place in the driver’s championship through the count-back rule. Although his attitude towards BMW seemed to sour somewhat after Monza, when he made his discontent known about the speed of car development, the fact that he lost third in the championship and BMW fell out of contention for the constructor’s championship within sight of the finish, seemed to back him up. Or was it Kubica himself taking his foot off the gas? This was a breakthrough year for Robert Kubica. Should BMW give him a car to match Ferrari and McLaren in 2009, he will certainly be a contender. #4 – Sebastian Vettel – Toro Rosso THERE are few drivers to have made the kind of impact as did Sebastian Vettel in 2008. He became the youngest ever pole-sitter and the next day drove through some of the worst conditions seen in Formula 1 to take his first victory, and at 21, the youngest driver in history to stand atop an F1 podium. His star is in the ascendency and shines brighter than most in a paddock full of racing glitterati. The season had started badly for Vettel. He failed to 40 register a single point in the first five races, and his first corner retirements became something of a running joke. Then along came a new car, and at Monaco, where the car received its first run with no testing, Vettel duly took points. He scored again in Canada, and then at home in Germany. In the last seven races of the season, he picked up points six times, including that famous win at the Italian Grand Prix. In the season finale he was faster than both Hamilton and Massa, and in overtaking the Brit could have had an unexpected hand in deciding the championship. But he didn’t care. He was racing for glory, and for the points which took Toro Rosso above their parent team Red Bull Racing in the standings. That he has been plucked from the junior team and transported to the senior squad for 2009 is no surprise. He is a man in demand. In an Adrian Newey- designed car, at the start of a new era of regulations, one wonders what Sebastian Vettel might achieve in 2009.