• Sam Bird's GP2 column

'I was absolutely gutted to come away with no points'

Sam Bird
August 3, 2010
Sam secured his first pole position in GP2 © Sutton Images

I was absolutely gutted to come away from Hungary with no points. We had such a fast package all weekend but, once again, things that were out of my control held me back.

Let's start with the good bit: qualifying. I felt confident after practice because it all went well and I was third quickest. It was a circuit I'd never been to before, but I felt like I had a good chance ahead of qualifying and I knew there were quite a few corners where I could still improve.

It turned out I was right, and I managed to pull it all together to get my first pole position in GP2. It's a great experience to know that you are faster than everyone else over a flying lap and it's one that I hope to emulate at the next three rounds. But unfortunately, that turned out to be the highest point of my weekend.

In the feature race it all fell apart right from the beginning. We had to do two formation laps due to a couple of stallers on the grid, but I was just staying focused by going through the same tyre heating process that I always do. The team told me to do my last burnout as close as I possibly could to the grid because that gets temperature into the tyres. It's important to heat them up as much as possible because the temperature seeps out of the tyres from the moment you stop, and as I was on pole, I'd be stopped for the longest amount of time.

So I did my last burnout very close to my grid spot, pulled the clutch in and dabbed the brakes to slow down. But as soon as the clutch came in my engine died, it cut off all power, and left me stuck on pole without any means of getting away. The same "glitch" befell several other people at the start...but I was on pole.

I'd done all the hard work on Friday but now I had to start from the pit lane on a track that is notoriously difficult to overtake on. I went from being in the best possible position to win the Saturday race to the worst - I may as well have qualified last! But there was no point in getting too worked up about it and I decided to just refocus my mind on making up as many positions as I possibly could.

We actually did a reasonable job in the end, but like I said, you can't overtake very easily there and I got stuck behind one car for a large portion of the race. He was lapping about two seconds slower than what I could have done in clear air, so that was immensely frustrating. In the end I came through to finish 13th.

So that meant I also started Sunday's race from 13th and within a couple of laps I had got up to seventh. Points seemed to be on the cards... but then I had another failure, this time hydraulic, and I had to retire on the ninth lap of the race. It meant we missed out on even more points because Davide Valsecchi, who had been just two cars ahead of me when I had the problem, ended up on the podium.

So it's the same as I've said in previous columns; we keep throwing away points due to reasons that are out of my control. If I was making mistakes every weekend then I could look inwards, but when they're not your own mistakes it's even more disappointing.

Sam leads the field around on the formation lap before misfortune struck © Sutton Images

Everybody that I've spoken to around the pit lane is impressed with my performances but that doesn't stop me wanting to win races. Race wins are often what your talent is measured by, so that's why I'm so desperate to chalk some up and make the next step forward in my career.

My management team and I have an open dialogue with several F1 teams but we'll have to wait and see how they go. The perfect scenario would be a young driver test with one of the teams over the winter, so I can show them first-hand what I'm capable of. Hopefully by the end of the year they will feel that have done enough to warrant one of those, but we'll have to wait and see where we are by Abu Dhabi.

I've got three rounds left to prove to the rest of the racing world that I was potentially a championship contender this year but, for reasons out of my control, it didn't go that way. So I'll start doing that at Spa, it's a track that I love and the only time I raced there - in British Formula 3 three years ago - I won.

Driving a GP2 car around there will be a big step up but also one that I'm really looking forward to. It's more nerve-racking when you're going to a circuit that you don't know and you've got half an hour to try and be fast - that's what's really difficult. In the meantime I'll be in the gym as much as possible to make sure I'm as fit as I possibly can be.

There are three rounds and six races to go in the Championship and despite the problems I've had, my enthusiasm and appetite for success are intact. Bring on Spa!