- Sam Bird Q&A
'I'd rather do my talking on the track'Laurence Edmondson January 19, 2011
After a solid first season in GP2, Sam Bird is set to join the iSport team for 2011 in both GP2 Asia and the European GP2 Series. In an exclusive intervew with ESPNF1 he talks about his chances this season and his chances of cracking F1 in the future.
Congratulations on getting the drive with iSport in GP2 this season, you must be very pleased to have landed another race seat with a championship-winning team?
Absolutely, I'm really, really pleased. I think it's the right move at the right time. I'm in my second year of GP2 and this year I hope that we'll be fighting for wins and titles.
Is that your aim - one season with iSport, hopefully a championship and then a drive in F1?
That would be nice, wouldn't it? That would be very, very nice. But only time will tell, I'm just concentrating race-by-race, step-by-step at the moment. The main goal is to be quick in testing at Abu Dhabi and then be quick in the [GP2 Asia] race at Abu Dhabi and we'll just take it from there. Every weekend is new, every weekend is different. There are going to be lots of new challenges along the way, it's going to be a fantastic adventure - 12 months with iSport - and then at the end of it if I can hold my hand up and say things have gone brilliantly and we're in a position to look for an F1 drive, then that's a job well done. But it's a long way away yet.
Your GP2 rivals from last year, Pastor Maldonado, Sergio Perez and Jerome d'Ambrosio are all in F1 this year, how do you think they will get on?
I think they will all do well, GP2 prepares you very well. Although there is only limited testing in Formula One, I think all the guys have the potential to show that they've got what it takes to be in F1. Hopefully I can join them very soon.
D'Ambrosio finished behind you last season in the championship but still got promoted to F1, does that hurt a little bit?
I'd hate to say [laughs]... It's hard to watch people that you've raced against move on and above you when you believe you can compete with them. But that's the way it goes and I believe that Jerome can do a very competent job, so well done and best of luck to him. With regards to Sergio and Pastor, they came second and first in the championship and they deserve to be in Formula One. That's the way it is. The next best two who could be in F1 are myself and Jules [Bianchi]. We were team-mates last year, we're not this year... I'm looking forward to it.
Are you a bit concerned that to get to F1 you need a huge amount of sponsorship? If you look at Maldonado and Perez they're both going there with masses of money. Is that a concern, especially because you're British and not from a developing market with plenty of sponsorship opportunities?
It is a slight concern, but at the same time not. I still believe that talent speaks for itself. Obviously at the moment the economic market is difficult for all teams - even the big teams. But these things tend to go in cycles and the good times will be back. I just have to do the best job I can and be ready.
How easy is it as a GP2 driver to go to the F1 bosses and sell yourself during race weekends, is that something that's possible?
We are in and out of the F1 paddock all weekend because of the GP2 schedule so you will bump into the F1 people you know. They do follow what goes on in GP2 because that's where the new talent is and if you're doing a good enough job on track, you don't have to force things. They will say a quick "well done" or give you a thumbs up when you come across them. And then it can grow from there. So really, your performances are the starting point and should sell themselves.
Not at the moment. I continue to work closely with the team [Mercedes]; they've made me feel at home with some simulation work before and after the test and at the test itself. I'm grateful for the opportunity and hope I can continue contributing. We'll have to wait and see what happens.
Your new team principal at iSport, Paul Jackson, is a man who knows GP2 very well [Timo Glock won GP2 in 2007 with iSport], is he the man to give you a shot at the title?
I think not only Paul but the whole team is capable, look at last year's record. I know the engineers and mechanics very well and they're fantastic guys, they put together two cars last year that never ever broke down, they had a 100% reliability record. If we can have the same thing this year, and be as fast as they were last year with two second-year drivers in both myself and Marcus [Ericsson], then we should be up at the sharp end.
Do you think reliability is the key to GP2? Of course everybody is using the same chassis, so what makes one team better than another?
That's hard to say because there are five or six teams that are all right up there, they're all at the top of GP2 and it's so difficult to distinguish who is better or worse. Obviously I was with a very good team last year [ART], but I'm with a very fast and competent team this year as well - I'm very fortunate with my two choices. There's also Barwa Addax, Rapax, Racing Engineering, Dams, the list of race-winning teams goes on and on. It's going to be a tough year but I think I'm up for the challenge.
And what about your team-mate Marcus Ericsson, are you confident you'll have the upper-hand against him?
He's a very, very strong opponent. He'll be difficult to beat, I believe. It's hard to say, I don't want to comment too much, I'd rather do my talking on the track.
The first day of testing is in Abu Dhabi on February 2. It's going to be a very important time for everybody concerned because it's our first proper run in the new cars and on the Pirelli tyres. The sooner I can get to grips with the Pirelli tyres the faster I will be.
We've been told the GP2 tyres are the same as the F1 tyres, what does that mean for you guys?
I think to a certain degree yes [they will be the same], they're certainly going to be close. As a selling point I think that using the same tyres as F1 is fantastic. GP2 is renowned for being the feeder series to F1 and it's a testimony to GP2 that Pirelli is now the tyre supplier to GP2 as well. It means that F1 bosses, I believe, will look at GP2 drivers before any other category.
And right now what are your plans ahead of GP2 testing?
Just before you called I'd finished a 20km run, so it's lots of training. I do weights, and sprinting, and more weights, and cycling, and neck weights - absolutely everything in order to make myself 110% race fit.
Laurence Edmondson is an assistant editor on ESPNF1