- Sam Bird's ESPNF1 column
Against the oddsSam Bird September 20, 2012
Before this weekend's World Series by Renault race in Hungary I took part in the Young Driver Test for MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS at Magny-Cours. It was great to drive the car on track in a proper test again for those two days. The last time was at the Young Driver Test last year in Abu Dhabi, although I have driven for the team at several demo events since then.
I've never raced Magny-Cours. I've tested there in Formula Three but driving it in a Formula One car is quite different of course. I don't know what the track is like to race on but it's certainly a cool track to drive; it's got some slow speed corners, some high speed chicanes and some high speed corners so it makes for a good mixture and a useful range for testing.
The main thing for me was to concentrate on my performance and make sure I did good, consistent lap times for the data collection. The team were happy with my contribution and we continue to work on the performance parts that people may have read about.
When I left Magny-Cours to fly off to Budapest for World Series, Brendan Hartley took over from me for the final day of the test. Brendan does some work on the Mercedes simulator and the best way to get the most out of the simulator is to give some of the simulator drivers a go in the car so I think that was useful for himself and the team.
Hungary was a disappointing weekend to be honest. We scored 13 points so we still got a reasonable haul of points; however the speed in the car was just not there. I struggled throughout with an engine issue and then with a fundamental lack of grip through all corners and all corner phases. The team will work extremely hard from now until Paul Ricard to try to resolve the issues that lead to the car not being right and we'll move on.
I had to get 100% out of myself, and I don't think I've driven any better all year. People will obviously point to the Monaco and Silverstone wins but Hungary is as good as I've driven all season to only get a tenth and a fourth, so obviously there were some issues there.
The team were very apologetic for the problems we experienced and I have to give them credit for their honesty in that respect. They're all really good guys and they're working extremely hard to try to win this championship. They obviously don't want to have a slow car; they want the car to compete at the front so to see it a second off the pace is difficult for them too. You watch the behaviour of some of the other cars and how they can corner and their steering inputs look very simple, whereas ours don't at the moment. I will continue to give it my all and to drive at my best and if we can sort out the technical issues then we should be OK.
Getting fourth in race two is the kind of result that may be pivotal at the end of the season. After Barcelona race two, if it's gone my way by a couple of points then I may say it's the greatest race I've ever raced! It's too far down the line to say how important it was, but for sure I couldn't have driven any better and I was pretty happy to get to the finish line in fourth place.
The weekend wasn't ideal ideal for the championship but it doesn't change my outlook. I'm still in it to win it so I put pressure on myself in that sense, but I haven't really felt the pressure this year, I've just enjoyed my racing. As a racing driver you just have to deal with pressure and, in a way, it's a privilege to have that pressure. It means the stakes are high because you're competing at the sharp end, and that's the only place you want to be!
We've got no more testing days so it's absolutely down to the races now and I'm really looking forward to Paul Ricard. It's the time of the year when we need to be winning races to be outscoring Robin Frijns and Jules Bianchi. I'm sure they're going to be very quick but we just need to be quicker. Game on!