- Sam Bird's GP2 column
'A good foundation'Sam Bird May 13, 2011
It was nice to get the season up and running with a good start. There was some anticipation but in terms of the build-up it was just another race weekend; I didn't put any added pressure on myself to perform. My aim was simply to get the ball rolling with a good points haul for a foundation on which to build a championship challenge, and we've done just that.
The running on Friday morning was done in the rain, and we hadn't done much testing in wet conditions so it was a chance to try out the wet tyres. They seem quite good when they're new but then they go off quite quickly. I qualified in second position for the first race itself, which was dry. I started on the dirty side of the track - against the pit wall which is very rarely used during the weekend - and, like most people on that side, I struggled to get grip off the line and dropped to third and then there was a safety car due to a big crash on the first lap. Once the safety car came in I was able to get past the car in second quite easily and quite quickly on the first lap after the restart, so I set about trying to maintain or close the gap to Romain Grosjean in the lead.
My first stint was strong considering I was on used tyres and Grosjean had started the race on new, and I was able to consistently maintain the gap. On my way to the pit stop I informed the team I wanted to change all four tyres while Grosjean only changed his rear tyres. While my pit stop took longer the Grosjean's because of that, it was still the right call as I was able to catch up with him and get within less than a second and although he made a small mistake a couple of corners form the end, he then took a defensive line and I was unable to capitalise. I obviously wanted to win, but I wasn't going to have a hopeful lunge because I knew that I had also secured the point for fastest lap and third place was 35 seconds behind. You have to measure risk against reward and there are situations when you need to put it all on the line and take a risk but this was not one of them.
The second race was a different drive from my perspective because I started further down the field in 7th with the top 8 reversed from Saturday's result. I knew that the car had the speed so I took a patient approach and just waited for the right time to make my move on each of the cars ahead of me. It was an exciting race and to get third in the very last sector of the last lap was very nice and really rewarding for the team.
Starting that last lap after a safety car period, my team-mate Marcus Ericsson went for a rather optimistic move on the inside of the final corner and collided with me. The team had a word with Marcus after the race and he and I also had a man to man chat. In the end we gave each other a hug and that was it. Bygones... It happens in racing. Marcus is a really good driver, a great team-mate, we get on very well and I don't want this to effect things.
It was a good start to the season and it showed that all the hard work that we did in the winter is paying dividends. It's nice to be up there at the top of the table but at this stage of the season it doesn't really matter who's leading the championship. It's where I am at the end of the year that really matters to me. We've built a good foundation and we need to keep on doing what we've done so far: getting good points on the Saturday and following it up with more points on the Sunday. If you're constantly accumulating points then you're going to be up there.
After the second GP2 race I watched the Grand Prix from the Mercedes motorhome and thought it was a really exciting one. It's the magic of the rear wing, and I know that some people have said that the overtaking may have been too easy but it's a tactical game and people were getting within a second of the car in front to give themselves a chance to overtake. Maybe the DRS zone was too long in Turkey, perhaps it could have been used after the kink on the back straight but the rule is new to everyone this year. There is always going to be some trial and error but I think that the FIA has got it right everywhere so far and it made for another exciting race.
I just want to end this week's column with a message for Davide Rigon who was injured in the second race on Sunday. I probably speak on behalf of the whole of the GP2 grid when I wish him a very speedy recovery and hope to see him back on track competing with all of us at some point this year. Nobody ever wishes injury on another driver and it was difficult to watch it back afterwards - I like to watch the races back afterwards and I had to fast-forward that bit because it's not nice seeing a fellow competitor getting hurt. So best wishes to Davide and good luck mate; I hope you get better soon!
Sam Bird writes for ESPNF1 after every GP2 weekend