Exclusive: Sam Bird Q&A
The British driver on a home victory, parking in the wrong pits, a championship challenge and his role with Mercedes in F1
By William Esler. Last Updated: 17/09/13 1:28pm
Fresh from GP2 victory in front of his home crowd at Silverstone, Sky Sports Online catches up with RUSSIAN TIME driver and Mercedes reserve Sam Bird.
How did it feel to take victory in front of the British crowd?
Sam Bird: "It felt absolutely amazing to do it in front my home crowd, in front of the BRDC who have supported me for so long, in front of my family my friends - it was just absolutely amazing and I couldn't have been more pleased."
Have you had much banter about driving to the GP2 pits rather than to below the podium?
SB: "Haha, not particularly as it was a genuine mistake made by the team on the interpretation of where we needed to drive - whether we needed to drive down the support pit-lane first before rejoining the track. I was told to do that, however, then the marshals forced me into parc ferme and I wasn't able to go any further due to the marshals putting me there. So it was a genuine, honest mistake but I know from now on at Silverstone you can't do that!"
You didn't have the best of starts from the dirty side of the grid. How difficult was it to stay calm and then take advantage of the situation at The Loop?
SB: "It was ok, I have learnt from experience that you need to have a cool head and that, to finish first, first you have to finish. I was able to read the situation that was going on in front of me quite well through turns three and four and come out of it in the lead of the race."
The deal with RUSSIAN TIME was quite a late one. How much of a disadvantage was it for you?
SB: "It was a huge disadvantage. If you haven't tested a car, regardless of whether you are experienced or not, you are still going to be on the back foot compared to your competitors who have tested this new compound tyre and done mileage over the winter, whereas I had been sitting doing quite frankly nothing in terms of real driving.
"So it was a disadvantage and I was also carrying a small injury at the time which didn't help matters. However, we still had a very positive weekend with the fastest lap in race one and there was potential there for a podium finish. However, there was a drive-through penalty given to me in race one which scuppered our hopes, but it is getting better and better all the time and the team are working exceptionally hard. I am ever so pleased that this late deal came together."
There was a dramatic moment in GP2 qualifying when Johnny Cecotti forced Sam Bird off the track.
Did you wonder what you had let yourself in for when Cecotto ran you off the road in the first qualifying session of the season?
SB: "How do I answer this politically? Some drivers have a reputation for a reason and sometimes they live up to those reputations. I don't know why he did that, but it is what it is. GP2 is supposed to be breeding ground for future Formula 1 stars, however not everybody gets there. I'm not saying that particular people won't get there, but manoeuvres like that cannot help their cause."
With Stefano Coletti not scoring at Silverstone, you have cut the gap at the top of the championship to 31 points. Can you mount a title challenge?
SB: "Yeah absolutely - there is still so, so far to go in this championship. We've only really hit around the half-way mark now, so there is still plenty to play for and we are sitting in a nice position right now. There are still two people to overtake in the championship hunt [Coletti and Felipe Nasr], but like I said there are an awful lot of points left to play for. We have quite a bit of momentum behind us at the moment with the last two Feature Race wins under my belt and a Sprint Race win as well. I have along with Stefano the most race wins of this season, so let's see what the season has to offer me."
Ross Brawn said it would be difficult to get you some track time now that Mercedes are not in the Young Driver Test. Is there any possibility that we will see you on track in an F1 car in 2013?
SB: "I am not focussing on any of that right now - my focus is on GP2 and trying to do the best job I can possibly do and then doing the best job I possibly can on all the simulation work I do with the Mercedes team. It would be an absolute privilege to test the car properly. However, I know and totally understand the fact that we have two of the best racing drivers in the world racing for our team, so the likelihood of getting a Friday drive is very, very small. But I totally understand my role and will continue to do everything I absolutely can for the team."
Sam Bird took a dominant victory in the Monaco GP2 feature race after a first-corner crash severely depleted the field.
You do a lot of simulator work for the team - just how realistic is that?
SB: "Well the engineers are believing in it more and more as we get it closer to reality. It is being improved all the time, the boys back on the sim are doing a very, very good job on working exceptionally hard - putting in many, many hours every week - on trying to improve it and to get Nico and Lewis to use it as often as possible and for myself and other people that are involved in the project to do as much testing as possible so that when we get to the race track, whichever race track that may be, we have tested all the possible options that need to be tested so that the race team have an advantage over other people."
Career wise, are you still focussed on getting a race seat in F1?
SB: "That's the dream - that has been the dream since I was a little boy. I don't see any reason why that should change and I'm having a strong season so far in GP2 and this is still a target."