- Sam Bird's ESPNF1 column
Rain on the track but sunshine from the grandstandsSam Bird July 15, 2011
Well, the British Grand Prix weekend certainly had typical British weather to go with it! We made a good start with the quickest time in free practice but then the rain in qualifying made it a bit of a lottery to be honest. We were very quick in qualifying in those conditions; I set the fastest first sector of anyone, I had a green second sector - which means a personal best - but then caught traffic in the last one. So I did a back-off lap the next lap to go for it again and during that period it started raining much harder so there wasn't much I could do really, that was that.
Rain was in the air for our first race too. It thundered down before the race which meant that we started behind the safety car. Unfortunately my tyre pressures in the wet were too high to start with so I had a very good car for the first two laps in the wet and then the tyres went off so I began to really struggle for grip and lost a few places. My pit crew did a superb pit stop but I probably pitted a lap too late for slicks compared to some other people. I still worked my way back up and was able to salvage fifth which was OK considering what happened in the race.
It's hard to say if starting behind the safety car was the right decision. You have to respect the race director's decision, but I think we might have been OK with a standing grid start. A standing start always makes for a more interesting spectacle and more opportunities, however it was quite good for the drivers to see where all the standing water was. So there are arguments for and against. The safety argument prevailed and that is always a very worthy one.
We've seen a few safety car starts due to rain over the past year in Formula One, and it's possible that they are trying to apply the same consistency across all of the formulas, but it's also just a coincidence that the rain we've seen over the last couple of races has been torrential rain not just drizzle like it can be sometimes. It's been rain that creates a lot of standing water and standing water and single-seaters don't really mix.
My start to the sprint race on Sunday was interesting, I had to immediately swerve right to avoid Stefano Coletti who had stalled on the front row, but I was still able to come out of the first lap in fourth place. Maybe I could have challenged for the lead if I hadn't had to go around Stefano, possibly, but it's happened now, that's the situation I was dealt with and I thought I handled it pretty well.
I spent most of the race in fourth place, but it was apparent from very early on that I had a problem with the front left tyre. We don't yet know why that was, but it basically ended the race completely bald with no rubber at all left on it. This gave me severe understeer throughout the race which really hampered me in the last five laps and caused me to slip down to sixth place.
With the understeer I had there wasn't much I could do to counteract the problem with my front left. I drove as fast as I possibly could in order to keep with the top three and I was pushing really hard to do so, but I was really struggling out there. It was really tough to keep with them because any slight mistake and I would just drift so wide out of a corner. If I carried one kilometre an hour too much in to a corner I was dead on the exit as well, so I really had to be as clean as possible. It also hampered my braking efficiency; I was locking up an awful lot and my brake bias was way to the rear by the end of the race. It really hampered me, which is a great shame because I think that very good things were in store had I not had this major problem.
Despite my misfortune this weekend, the atmosphere was amazing. The home fans were absolutely incredible; I've never seen so many people wait around for a GP2 race before! It was still completely packed to watch our race, which was absolutely mega. Normally, when you go to other places, after F1 qualifying everybody apart from a couple of people leave, but here it looked like every single person stayed to watch GP2 so thank you to you all for watching, it was really good to see all of the support that the British drivers had over the weekend.
There's no reason to change our approach, if we just keep on doing what we're doing then the wins will come. We've had extremely good speed all year. We don't need to do anything differently. I'll fight hard and attack as I always do but I don't need to attack even more, I just need to keep my head down and convert my chances.
Sam Bird writes for ESPNF1 after every GP2 weekend