- Sam Bird's GP2 column
Preparation is everythingSam Bird April 27, 2011
- Sam Bird
Since I last spoke to you, I've been very busy preparing for the main GP2 season, which begins in Turkey next weekend.
I've settled in with my new team extremely well. I feel very much at home with iSport and it always felt like the right move for me after a good rookie season with some strong performances but also a couple of car reliability issues. I feel like it's a team with which I can fight for wins and hopefully a championship. We've made some really good progress over the winter. We were very fast in Asia and during testing last week in Barcelona I was second fastest again with some very good race runs. So I'm really confident in the team and confident that we can be competitive from the get go.
The Bahrain unrest obviously affected us because two GP2 Asia rounds were cancelled. We did see tanks rolling down the roads and you could hear occasional gun or tear gas fire from the hotel, but we never felt like we were in danger. The authorities and the people of the Kingdom of Bahrain have always been very welcoming towards us and I hope the internal issues can be resolved so that Formula One and GP2 can return soon. In the context, the right decision was made not to race.
Last year we had a few more GP2 Asia rounds before getting the main Series started but this season we did still have four days of testing in Europe, which has been quite useful. You've got to remember that we've got a new car and a new tyre supplier in Pirelli, so there's a lot to learn, in particular with the tyre: how long it lasts, what its temperature operating range is, and then set the car up accordingly in order to get not only the peak performance on a one-off qualy lap but also to get them to last for a race run. Both of those have been very critical.
The Pirelli tyres make things more challenging this year for sure. They make the car trickier to handle and of course harder to manage over a race run. This is in no way a criticism of Pirelli. Most of us drivers agree that they've done a superb job at meeting their brief, which was to increase the challenge for the drivers and the teams in order to make for more spectacular and unpredictable racing. The F1 races have already shown that. In order to finish first you will have to find a fine balance between pace and tyre management. Last year in Barcelona, where I had to come from the back after an unscheduled pit stop for repairs on lap 1, I was able to push and do effectively 36 qualifying laps to come through the field. This year you really have to stop yourself from pushing that hard because every time you push you take life out of the tyres, which have limited life in them to begin with and so if you fall off that proverbial "cliff", it could be game over.
Between now and lights out in Turkey I'll just keep preparing both physically and mentally but in terms of driving there's nothing else to do; I've done all my driving preparation now. Preparation is everything.
It's important to get a good start to the season. The first few races bring back very good memories. I got my first GP2 'Main Series' podium (I was previously on the podium in GP2 Asia) in the feature race in Turkey last year. Then it's Barcelona which is last season's drive that people have talked to me more about than any other. Then it's Monaco where I got the fastest lap of the race and then Valencia where I was on the podium again. After that it's my home race at Silverstone. I could go on... Every event on the calendar brings a smile to my face from good memories of last year and anticipation for this one. But for now, my focus is on Turkey, and nothing else beyond that.
Sam Bird writes for ESPNF1 after every GP2 weekend