Subscribe

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe
Special feature
Formula 1 Bahrain GP

When BMW topped F1, Hamilton hit Alonso, and Massa started a title charge

Fifteen years ago today, BMW enjoyed a rare taste of leading the Formula 1 world championship, while Felipe Massa’s 2008 Bahrain Grand Prix victory sparked his title run that fell agonisingly short.

Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber F1.08

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

The race weekend occurred following a backdrop of controversy: FIA president Max Mosley had been exposed by a UK tabloid sting in the week leading up to the event, and some teams were calling on him to step down.

On track, BMW’s Sauber era was blossoming, with Robert Kubica scoring his first career F1 pole position, just 0.027s ahead of the Ferrari of Massa. This came despite a lock-up that left him struggling over the final three corners of his Q3 lap: “The car was pulling on the braking to one side, but still it was enough for the pole.”

Willy Rampf, Technical Director, BMW Sauber, Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber, and Mario Theissen, Director, BMW Motorsport, celebrate their first pole position

Willy Rampf, Technical Director, BMW Sauber, Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber, and Mario Theissen, Director, BMW Motorsport, celebrate their first pole position

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Massa was under huge pressure at the time, as he was on zero points after a collision in the Australian GP opener and a spin into the gravel in Malaysia. He entered this race in determined mood, vowing to regain the points he’d lost.

Lewis Hamilton was in his spare McLaren, having crashed heavily in practice which left him with bruised ribs, and lined up third, ahead of Massa’s team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who confessed to a tricky weekend with his Ferrari’s set-up.

Massa immediately jumped ahead of Kubica, who suffered wheelspin at the start, as Hamilton failed to get away cleanly as he’d failed to put his car into launch mode. Hamilton clipped Fernando Alonso’s Renault at the downhill hairpin on the opening lap, and then rode up over the rear of his former team-mate on the exit of Turn 3 on the second tour, smashing his front wing to pieces and sending him into the pits.

Hamilton explained: “I was behind him, and I moved to the right, and he moved to the right and that was it – a racing incident, I guess.”

Raikkonen passed Kubica on lap 3, around the outside of the first corner, and the reigning world champion would chase Massa to the finish – where they were separated by 3.3s in a Ferrari 1-2.

Massa’s race engineer Rob Smedley said the result was never in doubt, however, as he had been running with more fuel than Raikkonen and could’ve pushed harder. He also said it was a huge reply to Massa’s doubters: “He was under a lot of pressure and had been slagged off by a lot of people. In the end, he did what he’s supposed to do and let his driving do the talking. That’s the result.”

Race winner Felipe Massa, Ferrari

Race winner Felipe Massa, Ferrari

Photo by: Andrew Ferraro / Motorsport Images

Massa himself was jubilant to have scored his first maximum points haul of the year after the double disappointment that had gone before.

“Finally, after a start to the championship under dark clouds, I can see the sunshine again,” he said. “We knew we could count on a great car and that certainly proved to be the case, given that I never had to push to the maximum once I was in the lead.

“I made a good start, managing to overtake Robert. Then, there were a few difficult laps because of oil on track but I was always in control.

“Clearly, I always had in mind what happened in Malaysia and so I tried to pay attention all the time, to ensure I brought the car home.”

Podium: second place Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Race winner Felipe Massa, Ferrari, third place Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber F1 and Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari Manager of F1 Operations

Podium: second place Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Race winner Felipe Massa, Ferrari, third place Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber F1 and Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari Manager of F1 Operations

Photo by: Sutton Images

It was a massive win for Massa, who’d go on to get within a whisker of winning the world championship. But, thanks to Kubica’s third place in Bahrain and Nick Heidfeld in fourth, BMW Sauber came away from Sakhir with a one-point lead in the constructors’ championship; the first – and only – time the Swiss-based team has ever led all of its F1 rivals.

BMW had seemingly broken the recent stranglehold on F1 held by Ferrari, McLaren and Renault – but it proved to be a false dawn.

The team failed to capitalise on Kubica’s maiden victory in Canada that summer, opting to scale back its car development to plough its efforts instead into the 2009 campaign for a new rules set.

That proved to be a disastrous move that led to BMW announcing, in the summer of 2009, that it was pulling out of F1 by the end of that season and then sold the team back to Peter Sauber.

Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber celebrates his first Pole Position with Lewis Hamilton, McLaren and Felipe Massa, Ferrari

Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber celebrates his first Pole Position with Lewis Hamilton, McLaren and Felipe Massa, Ferrari

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Be part of the Autosport community

Join the conversation

Related video

Previous article Tsunoda: AlphaTauri needs to run no wing to counter "horrible" top speed
Next article Ferrari requests right of review over Sainz Australian GP penalty

Top Comments

There are no comments at the moment. Would you like to write one?

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe