This time last year Kimi Raikkonen was in third place, 17 points behind championship leader Lewis Hamilton with two rounds of the title chase still to go.

Kubica The Finn turned that around superbly to snatch the drivers' crown in the final race at Interlagos.

After Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji, Robert Kubica finds himself in third place, just 12 points behind championship leader Hamilton. This begs two obvious questions. Firstly, can Kubica emulate Raikkonen's achievement? And secondly, is the lanky Pole in fact the very best driver of the current generation?

After much consideration, my respective answers are 'probably not' and 'could be' respectively.

Certainly at Fuji neither of the leading title contenders, Hamilton or Massa, particularly covered themselves in glory. But at the end of the day the BMW Sauber simply isn't consistently quick enough to run with the McLaren and Ferrari opposition. Not unless it gets a bit of a leg-up, as it did in Japan.

Yet in 13 of the 16 races so far, Kubica has finished in the points and, across the season, has made fewer mistakes than his more celebrated rivals.

It is also arguably likely that, had BMW concentrated more on the development of the 2008 car rather  than switching resources to next year's challenger, and perhaps fussing around trying to help the struggling Nick Heidfeld a bit less, then Kubica might be going into next Sunday's Chinese GP in an even stronger position.

"This is much better than my Canada win with a car that is not the one from the beginning of the season," he said. "We didn't improve a lot in the last two months, so to finish second, to keep quite good pace in qualifying, it is amazing." 

And pretty admirable, I would have thought.