- Sam Bird's ESPNF1 column
'I felt a huge amount of pride'Sam Bird May 3, 2012
It's been a pretty busy start to the season for me even though I haven't been racing! I've been attending grands prix with Mercedes as well as spending time in the simulator and testing ahead of the new season in a new category for me: World Series by Renault.
It has been a little bit strange watching GP2 races and not driving because obviously that's what I know now, but having said that I've been focusing on my World Series stuff; I know that's what I'm going to be competing in now so it is what it is. I've done two and a half tests this winter because I didn't take part in the final day at Paul Ricard due to going to Australia. The weather was diabolical in Barcelona which basically scuppered everyone's two-day test there, and then at Paul Ricard there were quite a lot of mechanical failures up and down the pit lane where we suffered quite heavily. But we've since had a very good test at Motorland where we've been able to put most of those technical issues to bed and were able to do some good, proper testing. I now feel very prepared, we found some things on the car on the last day that I feel very happy about and I think we moved forward as a team.
I have a job to do at the Formula One race weekends so that did affect the one test at Paul Ricard as I mentioned. Unfortunately I had to cut that test short in order to get to Melbourne and I did arrive there late - only turning up on Friday morning - so I guess it took priority on that occasion but for the rest of the year there are no clashes between my two schedules. On the flip side, it's been an exciting start to the Formula One season so I'm glad I was there for it.
At Mercedes we always knew the car was going to be a quick one; a lot of hard work went in to this car. The development on this car started way back last year; the technical directors, the engineers, the aerodynamicists, the designers - everybody within the factory has been working extremely hard on this project and to see it finally win a race was phenomenal. It had the potential from Australia but the key was to unlock the race potential and that's what we were able to do in China.
Personally, I felt a huge amount of pride when we won. I had a huge grin on my face when Nico crossed that line and seeing him pull away from the McLarens was lovely. I have tested last year's car and I've been briefly in the year's car, plus I did do the rookie test at the end of last year and I'd like to think that I did some work - whether it be small or large is not up to me to say - but I'd like to think that I did have an influence on the way that this year's car was designed due to my feedback and laps that I did when I was testing the car.
Obviously I've been keeping an eye on what is happening at Mugello this week. Part of my job is on the simulator and part of what I do is to try new components or aero-abilities of our car to see how they work, and if it correlates with the wind tunnel or we think that it may be in improvement then it might go on to the race car - or it might have already been planned to go on the race car and I'm just finalising their testing on it or evaluating it before it goes on there.
I can't wait to get the feedback on stuff. If I've worked on something and I've said it's good and then it turns out to be quite good on the real car then I get a huge buzz from that. If not then it motivates me to get back on the simulator and back in work to understand why it didn't work well so that we can go forward as a team.
Now my attentions turn to the opening race of the World Series this weekend. My team is called ISR and is based in the Czech Republic. They're a very, very motivated team, they ran Daniel Ricciardo last year and they would dearly love to win the championship - as with every team - but they really would. I'm looked after by a British engineer, which is good for me, and have mainly Czech mechanics. They all work extremely hard - I've bonded with all of the team very well already - and I have a quick team-mate so I'm really looking forward to spending the next eight or nine months with them.
I am going to be having to travel a lot between races, grands prix, Mercedes in Brackley and ISR in the Czech Republic but that's part of racing. You've got to be able to do that, you've got to expect to have long flights and lonely nights. That's part of the 'glamour' that is racing; spending time on your own on a plane!
You can understand that the aim this year is obviously to win the championship. It's the only aim that I would consider and it is going to be very difficult to do that because the level of competition is very high in World Series this year. In fact I'd say it's on a par with GP2 now as a championship because the car is quicker than last year and the competition is very strong. For Motorland this weekend obviously you want to get the championship up and running in the best possible way. After the first round of GP2 last year I was leading the championship and there's no reason that can't be the same achievement this year, so long as I drive well, the car is good and we have no problems.
I'd like to think we can hit the ground running but you never know with a new car what surprises it might throw up. There are so many things that might happen in a race weekend. I'd like to think we've covered all the bases in testing now; we know where the car is, I know were my ability is and I'm happy with both of those things so I hope we hit the ground running and that we can run from the front.
Mercedes test driver Sam Bird writes for ESPNF1 after every World Series by Renault weekend