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Head to head: the battle of the 2008 team mates - part one 16 Apr 2008

(L to R): Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1 and team mate Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1 at the start of term photograph.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Race Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 16 March 2008 Race winner Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari and Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Sunday, 6 April 2008 (L to R): Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren with Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Friday, 4 April 2008 (L-R): Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams and Kazuki Nakajima (JPN) Williams with the new Williams FW30. Formula One Testing, Day Two, Valencia, Spain, Tuesday 22 January 2008. World © Hartley/Sutton Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota and Timo Glock (GER) Toyota.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Saturday, 5 April 2008

Three races in and already this season is proving just as exciting and unpredictable as 2007. Three different drivers have clinched victories, we’ve seen a new face on the podium in Nico Rosberg, and two Formula One rookies - Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Bourdais - have scored points. By contrast, some of the grid’s most-experienced stalwarts - Rubens Barrichello and David Coulthard - are yet to get off the mark.

But true performance can only be judged relative to your team mate - we take stock on how the rivalries within each squad are progressing and assess which drivers have gained the edge and which have been left behind…

BMW Sauber - Nick Heidfeld v Robert Kubica
Qualifying: Kubica (3-0)
Race: Kubica (2-1) Kubica retired in Australia
Points: Heidfeld 16, Kubica 14

BMW Sauber’s third Formula One season could not have got off to a better start. Not only are the team currently leading the constructors’ championship, but one of their drivers has finished on the podium at each Grand Prix. And following his bittersweet 2007, it seems the leaner - and even a little meaner - Robert Kubica is so far setting the standard. Having finally adjusted to the Bridgestone tyres, he has outpaced Nick Heidfeld in qualifying, even giving the team their first-ever pole at Bahrain, and clinched two podium finishes. If Kubica’s retirement in Australia is taken into account, however, it is Heidfeld who has been the more consistent of the pair. And having scored points in every race, the German is just three adrift of current drivers’ standings leader Kimi Raikkonen.
What next? With the F1.08 possessing race-winning potential, the stakes at BMW Sauber are now even higher. Both drivers have the talent to do the car justice, but will Heidfeld’s experience or Kubica’s ambition win the day? Watch this space...

Ferrari - Kimi Raikkonen v Felipe Massa
Qualifying: Massa (3-0)
Race: Raikkonen (2-1) Massa retired in Australia and Malaysia
Points: Raikkonen 19, Massa 10

Last season Kimi Raikkonen proved he was quite capable of filling Michael Schumacher’s shoes at Ferrari and with his first title in the bag, he started 2008 as favourite for a second. No one doubted the F2008 would be quick but after showing his mastery in Malaysia and taking the lead in the drivers’ standings, Raikkonen has confirmed he has lost none of his vigour and ambition. In qualifying, however, it is team mate Felipe Massa who has shone and in Malaysia the Brazilian scored Ferrari’s only 2008 pole to date. Despite this qualifying prowess, however, the races have been much tougher for the Brazilian. Hamstrung first by an engine problem in Melbourne and then by a driver error in Malaysia, Massa was in dire straits, with not a point to his name. But in Bahrain, the 26 year-old finally managed to claw back some points, leading his team mate home, after a dominant win at the Sakhir circuit.
What next? With just three races complete, Massa is back in the hunt with everything to play for, though he will have to work hard if he is to curb Raikkonen’s advantage.

McLaren - Lewis Hamilton v Heikki Kovalainen
Qualifying: Hamilton (2-1)
Race: Kovalainen (2-1)
Points: Hamilton 14, Kovalainen 14

Of all the driver line-ups on the grid, it is McLaren’s which has drawn the most speculation. After last season’s disastrous Lewis Hamilton/FernandoAlonso pairing, the British team called on the services of cool-headed Finn Heikki Kovalainen to soothe things - and so far the youthful duo seems to be working well together. With a new cohort, Hamilton changed from 2007’s young upstart to 2008’s unofficial ‘team leader’ virtually overnight and with the MP4-23 looking strong, he was quickly able to dominate in Melbourne. But it was only an unfortunately-timed safety car period that stopped fifth-placed Kovalainen from making more of an impression in Australia and since then he has challenged Hamilton every step of the way. And while in qualifying Hamilton may still have the edge, under race conditions Kovalainen has proved he’s more than a match for the increasingly mistake-prone young Briton. A win may still be outstanding but the Finn’s consistency, in Bahrain in particular, has paid dividends and the McLaren drivers are currently level pegging on points.
What next? McLaren’s 2008 challenge took a turn for the worse in Bahrain, the team losing the lead in both championships. Both drivers will need to pool their resources to get the squad back on track before they can hope to profit personally from an improved MP4-23. The victor of this battle remains very much undecided.

Williams - Nico Rosberg v Kazuki Nakajima
Qualifying: Rosberg (3-0)
Race: Rosberg (3-0)
Points: Rosberg 7, Nakajima 3

For the past two seasons, Nico Rosberg has been Williams’ star turn. The squad know it. Team mate Kazuki Nakajima knows it. And, so far this season, the score board proves it. Rookie Nakajima was drafted in as a replacement for Alexander Wurz at the end of 2007, but right from the start the more seasoned German driver became defacto team leader. And it’s clearly a role the 22 year-old has relished, outpacing Nakajima in every qualifying session and outperforming him in every race. But Rosberg’s successes (including his podium in Australia) shouldn’t belittle Nakajima’s achievements. The 23 year-old Toyota protege has enjoyed several mature performances over the last three events, even keeping a cool-head in the dramatic Australian race to pick up three points. If his spin in Malaysia and poor start in Bahrain are anything to go by, he’s still learning the ropes, but he has the potential to occasionally upset the apple cart.
What next? There’s no denying Rosberg’s talent and if the FW30 regains its Australian form, more podiums for the German could follow. Nakajima, meanwhile, should continue to flourish under his team mate’s wings and bag a few more points in the process.

Toyota - Jarno Trulli v Timo Glock
Qualifying: Trulli (3-0)
Race: Trulli (2-0) Trulli and Glock retired in Australia
Points: Trulli 8, Glock 0

Toyota started the season hungry to finally prove their Formula One potential. Ditching Ralf Schumacher, the Japanese team hired former Jordan racer Timo Glock to fill his shoes, while retaining veteran racer Jarno Trulli. And it seems shaking up the line-up has provoked a positive response from Trulli. Qualifying has always been one of the 33 year-old’s strengths, but so far this year he’s outdone himself, with three top-seven grid slots. In races too, he’s not disappointed, with his unfortunate retirement in Melbourne matched by smooth and hard-fought runs in Malaysia and Bahrain. For Glock, meanwhile, matters have been much more hit and miss. From his dramatic accident in Melbourne to his collision with Rosberg in Malaysia, his reintroduction to Formula One racing has been unlucky to say the least. But there have been real signs of promise. He has made Q3 twice and only a gearbox glitch prevented a potential point-scoring run in Bahrain, where he did a great job of keeping Renault’s Fernando Alonso at bay.
What next? With the TF108 definitely stronger than its predecessor, the Toyota duo have the potential to impress and in time expect Glock to challenge Trulli all the more.