• Sam Bird column

All eyes on Silverstone

Sam Bird July 3, 2011
'Canada was a superb experience' © Sutton Images
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My last column was after Monaco, and with no race for a month I headed off to Canada and it was a superb experience. It was my first time there and I was not racing myself so I could just focus on the Formula One side of things. I was very fortunate to get to witness probably one of the best grand prix of the last few years.

While Jenson was coming through, everyone at Mercedes was enjoying what Michael was doing, which was stunning. At one point when it was still wet we thought that he possibly had a chance, we were thinking "crikey if it still rains then we could win". But it wasn't to be, and unfortunately he slipped to fourth but it was still a magnificent effort from Michael. And obviously what Jenson did as a fellow Brit was simply outstanding as well so there was plenty to cheer about in Canada, it was a super race. The team I do some work for did well and it was great to watch.

As soon as I left Monaco I wanted to get back in the car again and the race in Canada just made that hit home even more! So then two weeks later it was finally off to Valencia. Qualifying was pretty tricky. Traffic is challenging at the best of times in GP2 but on a street circuit it can be even tougher as witnessed in Monaco as well. However, that's no excuse, it's the same for everyone and you just have to get on with it. I was disappointed with sixth since my previous worst qualifying of the season was second. That in conjunction with a below-par pit stop meant that I couldn't challenge for a podium in the feature race. I fought pretty hard but had to settle for fifth place. Sometimes you just have to take what's on offer. Scoring points consistently is important.

I ended the race just behind Dani Clos, with Davide Valsecchi a few seconds ahead of us in third. What compromised my hopes for a podium was that I got held up by some midfield traffic after my pit stop. Max Chilton in particular held me up for six or seven laps. He was driving very well and was making it very difficult to pass. Once I did get past I was able to pull away from him and Luiz Razia quite comfortably and catch up to the back of Clos very quickly. But Clos used all of his experience and went very defensive and then Razia caught up to us. I think that if I'd caught up with Clos earlier then maybe I could have had a go at Valsecchi in third but it wasn't to be.

Overtaking was tough for us in GP2 and for that very reason, the F1 grand prix on Sunday wasn't quite as exciting as the other races we've seen this year either. Valencia is a circuit where you can defend quite easily. Because there are such long straights you can shepherd the person who's trying to overtake to the outside all the time. As the person defending you can drive to the inside and then make sure that the person who is trying to overtake has to go round the outside which is pretty impossible at the hairpins.

Sam Bird was forced to climb back through the field in the sprint race after early contact © Sutton Images

I was confident of a good race on the Sunday as I started fourth and had a great getaway off the grid, but my race was over almost before it began as Romain Grosjean ran in to the back of me into turn two. Romain is a fast driver and I've got a lot of respect for him, but I think he tried to win the race on lap one. He hit the back of my car and pushed me into the back of Razia who was third and it broke my front wing off. Neither the guilty party nor the victim win from these situations. The shunt put an end to both of our challenges for silverware in that race and Romain was also given a 10 place grid penalty for Silverstone. In the meantime, our main competitors scored valuable points…

I believe that we could have challenged for the win if we had got through that first corner unscathed but it wasn't to be and that's that weekend gone. We're not leading the championship anymore but we're right up there and we're now going to my home race which I can't wait for.

Being fourth rather than first in the standings doesn't change anything. It's still so close that if I were to win the Saturday race at Silverstone then I could be going away on Saturday night as the championship leader again, so it really doesn't matter at this point of the season. If you look at the Formula One championship last year, the winner never lead the championship at any point in the season; he just crossed the line first in Abu Dhabi and won the championship there. As long as you are there at the end that's all that matters. Being six or seven points off right now really doesn't faze me at all, I know that we're in the ballpark and we've got the speed to compete.

With the new pit and paddock complex the British Grand Prix will be extremely special. It'll be the first time that it will be used for a Formula One event; MotoGP has used it and apparently it was very good. I went to the opening of the pits and paddock and it was a special occasion, and it's a great building. It's a great facility that the British Racing Drivers Club, Silverstone and the local governing bodies have come up with, so congratulations to everyone involved for making such a wonderful facility for us drivers, riders and teams. It's stunning.

It's also a special weekend because of the home fans. I'm really looking forward to it and I hope that people stay on after Formula One qualifying to back me and support me in the GP2 feature race Saturday afternoon and the sprint race on Sunday morning. I promise to repay the support by fighting as hard as I always do to make my home crowd proud.