- Sam Bird column
Three days to shape 2012Sam Bird November 21, 2011
Last week I took part in the Young Driver Test for MERCEDES GP PETRONAS, which was very productive for both myself and for the team. We got an awful lot of work done, so they're very happy. Now it's a case of going back to the factory, looking at the data, sifting through it and applying the lessons learned from that towards the development of next season's car.
Considering you don't get much time for testing in Formula One these days, I think it was a fairly crucial three days for the team. It was a chance for them to test items on the car that they haven't been able to all year, because in testing at grand prix events you purely want to make sure the car is as quick as it can be for that one event, whereas we were working towards a new car for next year and trying all new things. So it's a very important event.
I can't really specifically say what details we were working on, it was just development work for next year in general. Everybody seemed to notice a different exhaust layout being tested on the car, which is obviously looking towards the 2012 season, but I can't go in to any detail on what we learned from that.
Something I did learn and can tell you about is the Pirelli tyres. There was a clear difference between the 2011 and 2012 tyres, and Pirelli have worked very hard and everything looks to be going in the right way.
Although all of the teams were testing on the same track last week, you can't really read too much into the times. I finished the final day second-quickest, which was the third-best time overall, and I was very happy with my performance. I don't think I could have got anything else out of the car. However, you don't know what other people are running - what mixtures, what loads, what tyres, what fuel levels - I know what I was running and I'm happy with what I did.
I was at the grand prix with the team over the weekend before the test and there were a few things I could pick up ahead of taking to the track myself. Any little tricks like kerb riding in certain places or any specific gears, or even any small things the drivers do on the steering wheel for specific corners. Having driven in the test last year I obviously had prior knowledge of the circuit in a Formula One car, but a lot has changed since then. This year's rules are obviously so different to last year's; obviously it's a new car and a new tyre, but then the blown floor effect and engine thrusts are all very new for this year so you can't really relate the two cars.
Looking ahead to 2012 I had two very promising GP2 tests with Trident and Rapax in Jerez and Barcelona recently. Both teams have obviously won races in GP2 - one has won a championship recently - and I got on very well with both teams and was able to make progress with both. So it could be GP2... or maybe not! As soon as I have any news on next year I'll be sure to let you know.
Sam Bird writes for ESPNF1 after every GP2 weekend