• Sam Bird's ESPNF1 column

Blazing a trail in Russia

Sam Bird July 17, 2012
Sam Bird took part in the first race at the Moscow Raceway last weekend © Renault
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Last weekend marked World Series by Renault's debut in Russia at the Moscow Raceway. I arrived at the track on Thursday and it looked like there was still quite a bit of construction going on. Some of the roads leading into the track weren't actually finished, but the organisers worked through the night and put in a massive effort to make sure everything was functioning and working properly for the start of the race weekend.

Inevitably there were some teething issues but the circuit dealt with it as best they could and they got through it. In the end they had close to 80,000 spectators so I think it was a successful weekend overall, and not just for World Series by Renault but also the burgeoning motorsport industry in Russia.

Moscow Raceway is a brand new track. It's pretty challenging with lots of second and third gear corners and a high-speed corner at turn one. Most of it was very tight and twisty and overtaking opportunities were few and far between, which was a bit disappointing for the drivers. Having said that, the World Series by Renault never disappoints when it comes to drama and race two was eventful!

But looking back to race one first, we qualified fifth and to be honest, having topped the timesheets in free practice, I was a little bit disappointed with that. I had a couple of technical issues throughout the weekend and we never really got to the bottom of them so I just had to live with them on Saturday. However, we got through the race relatively unscathed and I managed to finish on the podium in third which was another strong result.

We then made some positive changes to the car on Sunday and qualifying for race two was better with the car feeling good. I was on provisional pole approaching the business end of qualifying but my team called me into the pit with a minute left on the clock as I was getting low on fuel. I was therefore already out of the car during that crucial final minute when everybody improves on their final lap on an increasingly fast track. That was a strategic misjudgement on our part that dropped us from pole to fourth on the grid.

In the end, race two didn't last long for us as I unfortunately got caught up in the first lap chaos that seemed to be triggered when Bianchi and Sorensen made contact just ahead of me and it then cascaded down. I went to pass Sorensen on the inside for second place and was ahead of him by at least half a car. Looking at the replay, it then looks like the two Lotus cars touched, veered left and one or both of them hit my right side pod. It has been classed as a "racing incident" and I have no issues with that. It's part and parcel of racing and one has to be philosophical about these things. It was not a productive race for many of the Championship front-runners as it turned out.

My focus is now on the next race at Silverstone, which will take place at the end of August after a bit of a summer break. I will go to see my team in the meantime, rally the troops and make sure we have a big, big push for the end of the season. We have some ideas from last weekend and we saw some interesting things in how some of the other cars developed during the race. So we will adapt accordingly and learn from any mistakes we have made, albeit with small changes.

Sam Bird is now second in the championship, 10 points behind Robin Frijns © Renault

I try to bring some of the things I experience with the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One team to my racing with I.S.R. in World Series and it has helped me and hopefully benefited the team too. There is only so much you can transfer from F1 to World Series because the budgets are obviously not comparable. But it's more about processes, preparation and the attention to certain details.

Having said that, we've been up at the front all season to date so nothing needs to change too drastically. We have been strong on certain types of tracks and more of those sorts of circuits are coming up again on the calendar. What's more, Silverstone is my home track and I'm looking forward to putting on a good show for the British fans.

Talking of home races, I will continue to work with MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS at Hockenheim this weekend for one of the team's home grands prix. we're lucky to have four home grands prix: the Malaysian Grand Prix with our title sponsor PETRONAS, the British Grand Prix because it's down the road from our Brackley base, the German Grand Prix, which, of course, is the home of Mercedes-Benz, and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, home of our co-owners aabar. I'm very much looking forward to this weekend.