Lotus are doing what BMW should have done in '08

Wednesday 19th September 2012, 00:37 by Daniel Chalmers 

Lotus F1 Team, LAT Photographic

Formula 1 is an incredibly competitive sport so when an opportunity to win a title comes your way, you have to grab it with both hands.

This is exactly what Lotus intend to do for the rest of 2012 as they recently said they would "push like hell" for the title.

BMW Sauber was in a similar position back in 2008 in that they were not favourites, but had a chance to win the title. However they didn't take the chance. The end result was that team boss Mario Theissen paid the ultimate price when BMW pulled out of F1 at the end of 2009.

In F1 you have to live for the moment. You never know when a good chance to win the title might come round again.

Of Kimi Raikkonen's title bid Eric Boullier says: "He's currently third, one point away from Lewis Hamilton. Anything can happen."

He added: "We're not naive though, and we know that his chances are slim. However, we'll push like hell as long as there is a mathematical chance of winning it."

Back in 2008 BMW Sauber had the third quickest car on the grid (and not that far away from pacesetters McLaren and Ferrari) and Robert Kubica was making full use of it. He was utilising his incredible talent to extract the maximum from the car, and mix with the leaders in the championship fight.

In the first six races he finished in the top four five times, which included three podiums. In the seventh round at Canada he won for the first (and so far only) time.

Robert Kubica takes his maiden victory at the 2008 Canadian GP (© BMW-Sauber)

After that race Kubica led the championship by four points. At this point you would have expected BMW to push on, and support Robert’s title bid knowing that there was now a real opportunity.

However development faded away as more focus switched to the 2009 car. With sweeping regulation changes the thought was that getting a headstart on the new rules, could usurp McLaren and Ferrari.

Despite much less development over the remainder of the season on the 2008 car, Kubica defied the odds. He was in championship contention all the way to the penultimate race of the season in China.

Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa were constantly losing points, whilst Kubica was reliable, consistent and producing some incredible drives.

Just think what BMW Sauber might have been able to achieve had they pushed full throttle for that title. Robert Kubica could very well have been a world champion right now. The Pole wasn't happy about the decision.

It was a very strange move. Focussing on the next season is something a team does when the current campaign has been disappointing, not when a team is actually leading one of the championships.

Before the 2009 season when asked if he discussed the decision with BMW at the end of the season Kubica told F1 Racing magazine: "I don’t think there was a lot to discuss. Of course we had meetings reviewing last season, but I will concentrate on this year. Sometimes it’s very difficult to accept some situations but everybody has different views, so I will accept it."

BMW’s decision to focus on 2009 backfired spectacularly as they had a very poor season. A double diffuser was the thing to have rather than KERs. The teams that paid a lot of attention to KERs lost out spectacularly.

Kubica is currently competing in local rallies as he attempts to return to fitness after a rally accident in February 2011.

Sacrificing the chance to win the title in 2008 to try and mount a title challenge in 2009 failed miserably.

BMW then quit the sport at the end of that year, and the team went back to being just Sauber in 2010. If they had won the 2008 title there is a chance that they could still be in the sport now.

As it transpired 2008 was their only ever chance to win the title, and they completely ignored it.

Lotus isn’t going to making that same mistake. Yes, they are not the favourites for the title. McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull will be hard to beat in both championships.

However they are within range of the leaders in both the drivers' and constructors' championships. They have one of the quickest cars out there when they hit the sweet spot. They know that if they can go on a strong run there is a genuine chance of winning a title.

This is the first time the team from Enstone have had a remote chance at a title, since winning back to back championships in 2005 and 2006.

They are throwing everything at it. They will be trying a new rear wing in Singapore. In Suzuka they will finally be using their double DRS device. This along with other upgrades could be very significant for the team. There are upcoming circuits such as Suzuka, which should suit the E20 down to the ground.

Of course all this focus on trying to win in 2012 could detract from the challenge of 2013. However at least with stable regulations (in contrast to BMW's situation in 2008) upgrades on the 2012 car could be transferred over to the 2013 challenger too.

Lotus won't make the same mistake BMW-Sauber did in 2008 (LAT Photographic)

They are absolutely right to push for the 2012 title. They can’t know for sure when they will next be competitive enough to mount a championship challenge.

In 2013 Red Bull could easily recover from their blip this year and become dominant again. Mercedes could finally put everything together and become very formidable.

Looking ahead to 2014 and the new engine regulations, Renault might lose the engine war to Ferrari and Mercedes. If that is the case Lotus won’t have much of a chance. Engines are likely to be a huge deciding factor in whether teams are successful or not in 2014.

It might be that Lotus just miss out on the 2012 title but at least they won't have any regrets.

The difference between BMW and Lotus is that the German manufacturer weren't really racers, whereas Lotus are. Racers grasp every single opportunity however small. It was one of the reasons why Kubica joined the team (when they were still Renault) back in 2010. He would certainly approve of their approach to the rest of 2012.

Opportunity can be such a sparse thing in Formula 1 for both the drivers and the teams. It’s possible to have a chance to win the title one year, and then not have another chance for another ten years.

Benetton were title winners back in 1994 and 1995. It wasn’t till 2005 (then as Renault) that they had the chance to challenge for the title again.

Then look at Mika Hakkinen and Jenson Button. Button’s chance to win the title didn’t come till his tenth season in the sport. For Mika it was his eighth season.

Now we are in one of the most competitive eras of F1, more than ever you have to take any opportunity that comes your way. We currently have five teams in Red Bull, McLaren, Lotus, Ferrari and Mercedes who have the capability of mounting a challenge for the F1 titles.

We also have six world champion drivers amongst one of the most talented grids F1 has ever seen.

With such intense competition, it’s possible you may have to wait until your next chance comes round.

When Mario Theissen retires he may sit at home one day and wonder what could have been, had his team had gone gung ho for the 2008 title, just like Lotus are now doing for the 2012 title.

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