• Sam Bird's ESPNF1 column

Work in progress and a podium

Sam Bird May 9, 2012
Sam Bird held off a late challenge from Arthur Pic to finish second in race two © Paolo Pellegrini for ISR
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My opening World Series by Renault rounds resulted in an acceptable weekend in terms of points - I think it's always important to rack up a reasonable amount on the first weekend to get the ball rolling - however in terms of the outright speed and performance of our car, my team I.S.R and I think there's some work to do.

We searched for the optimal setup all weekend really, and while we made some good progress, we never really found the sweet spot that one or two other teams did. The engineers will be analysing the data with a fine tooth comb and I'm certain that they will find some answers in time for the next round. I think Monaco is a specialist circuit anyway where track experience counts for a lot, possibly even more than car setup. But then for the rest of the season we do need to up our game. We're working extremely hard at I.S.R and the boys are doing a tremendous job so I have no doubt that we will get there.

I finished the first race ninth, which is not what I'm used to. However we found some improvements to the setup overnight and made amends in the second race.

In race two I made a good start and had a positive first lap, so the opening lap was good fun. But then our tyres started to quickly deteriorate and by lap three I was already struggling with the rears. The outright speed we had over those first two laps was actually very strong in comparison to our competitors' but that was unfortunately short-lived. I think my experience gained last year on the GP2 Pirelli's did stand me in good stead as I was able to maintain a reasonable pace and keep my second place, but you do expect to be able to push quite a bit harder on the Michelin.

Sam Bird's second place leaves him third in the championship standings © Paolo Pellegrini for ISR
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The main difference between a GP2 car and the World Series car is the tyre and the downforce level; I think the downforce level in the World Series car is greater than I ran last year. The tyre is more forgiving and allows you to run a higher minimum speed through a corner. I'd say it's a car you can push harder, not necessarily for a one-off lap - in qualifying in GP2 you'd be pushing just as hard because that's what qualifying is all about - but then in the race you can push a bit harder than in a GP2 car, for sure.

Considering the challenges we faced this weekend we're reasonably satisfied as a team, but wary of the fact that we need to improve. It was nice to get a podium on the first weekend and start collecting some points. I'll start looking at the championship table much later in the season but right now I think it's important to just collect some points and some big points, hopefully.

Monaco is next and I hope to be challenging for victory. Qualifying will be the first real task there and I'll need to do one of those laps that you do around Monaco, one of those that you look back on and think 'Wow, that was special'. I've done it before (Sam took pole position in GP2 last year), so I know the feeling of getting it right there. Monaco is really special.

I'm on the phone to my World Series team literally every other day, but now I'm about to get into Formula One mode and focus on my duties with Mercedes at the Formula One Grand Prix. I am actually on my way to Barcelona as this column is published. F1 and World Series by Renault weekends are coming thick and fast now, and I wouldn't want it any other way!

Sam Bird writes for ESPNF1 after every World Series by Renault weekend

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Sam Bird writes for ESPNF1 after every World Series by Renault weekend Surrey-based Sam Bird made his name in Formula BMW before working his way through to GP2 where he raced for ART and iSport International. After a year fighting for the title in World Series by Renault he is now back in GP2 with RUSSIAN TIME alongside his duties as a Mercedes test driver