I know I have a lot of Sam Bird fans who read the content on my blog so I thought it was about time for me to pull my finger out and provide you all with a post just about Sam himself. After Belgium, the dominant Briton answered a lot, maybe even too many of my questions.
Q: Sam, first of all I’ve got to congratulate you on your sublime performances since we last spoke after Bahrain. Are you enjoying this campaign more than the Formula Renault 3.5 season you contested last year?
Sam Bird: Thank you Callum. I am certainly enjoying my racing at the moment, but I enjoyed it equally last year. There were some memorable weekends last year: Monaco, Silverstone…
Q: After your success in Bahrain, did your confidence take a knock when you failed to pick up any points in Spain at the start of the European season?
SB: No because we always knew the pace was there and victories were always within our reach. For a variety of reasons, we didn’t always convert but in each case we knew the reasons for that and you have to remember that RUSSIAN TIME is a brand new team that has done remarkably well to achieve this much, this quickly.
Q: An historic race win in Monaco by a more than comfortable margin was stunning to watch and I can’t begin to think what it felt like to actually win it. What thoughts go through your head when you know you’re going to win at that venue?
SB: You don’t really think about that during the race. But after you’ve taken the chequered flag, you do get a chance to enjoy winning in Monaco. Your lap of honour takes you past all of those iconic Monte-Carlo spots and the crowds are so close to the track. Also, Monaco is the only race where the top three actually park their cars on the grid instead of back in the pitlane. It is a little bit special.
Q: Your Feature Race win at Silverstone in front of your home crowd was another dominant performance. Can you compare winning at Silverstone to winning at Monaco or are they both equally as special and meaningful?
SB: They are both equally special and meaningful, for different reasons, which are probably obvious. In the cold light of day however, they earn you no more points than all the other races.
Q: Your team mate Tom Dillmann had four races in a row without scoring any points. Do you sit with him at race weekends and assist his motivation to perform better in the next races?
SB: Tom and I work very closely together on the setup of the car. We get on very well. But trust me, motivation is really not a problem with Tom. He is very motivated indeed so he needs no input from me on that. He has also proven that he’s a very fast driver. Expect good things from him in the final races of the year.
Q: Running a ‘Prime Prime’ strategy in the Feature Race almost certainly guarantees driver of a solid result but compromises the Sprint Race. Do you prefer to run this strategy or is it not worth ruining the Sprint?
SB: It really depends on the circumstance. For instance, at Spa, we ran Prime-Prime because the likelihood of rain was very high for Sunday. In the end, Sunday was dry… that’s Spa for you! Having said that, probably 80% of the grid ran Prime-Prime on Saturday, for exactly the same reason, so it was a pretty level playing field and that choice did not guarantee a good result.
Q: After winning at Spa-Francorchamps last weekend, you said on the team radio that the car was perfect to drive. Was that a race you knew you could win or do you take things one step at a time in the cockpit and wait until the last corner to make the realisation?
SB: A bit of both actually. After free practice and qualifying, we knew the win was achievable. But once the race starts you just focus on the process, not the outcome. You only enjoy the outcome once you’ve achieved it, never before!
Q: The next track on the calendar is Monza; a circuit you have been fortunate enough to win on in the past and it happens to be your favourite. Are your confidence levels sky high with these two factors in your favour?
SB: Over confidence is dangerous. It’s true that I like Monza, that I have won there before and that the team produced an excellent car at the last round. But we are taking nothing for granted. We will get our heads down and work hard to achieve our goals. But we’re certainly all looking forward to the challenge.
Q: Looking at the Drivers’ Standings, you are currently on 121 points in fourth place and clearly a title challenger. When did you start believing it was possible to take the fight to Stefano Coletti, Felipe Nasr and Fabio Leimer at the top?
SB: From day 1! I have never stopped believing.
Q: You must truly believe you can win the title. Who do you think will be your nearest rival for the remainder of the season or do you see it being a five way battle until the final round in Abu Dhabi?
SB: It’s anybody’s title, really!
Q: It was recently announced that the current GP2 Series car would be used for another three year cycle. Can you sum up in a few words what it is really like to drive the car? How much grip does it have? What forces does it attack a driver with etc.?
SB: It’s a really fun car to drive. Powerful with good aero and braking. Grip of course is the critical performance aspect because the Pirelli tyre is designed to give you good grip initially but to degrade quickly if you don’t manage it carefully.
Q: After spending three years in GP2 and one in Formula Renault 3.5, the next logical step is Formula 1. Is this an achievable move forward for next year? Perhaps with Williams? I know getting a straight answer to that is a long shot ;)
SB: You’re right, you will struggle to get a straight answer out of me on that :). What I can say is this: I would like the opportunity and I’m ready. It’s not about achieving my personal ambition, it’s about contributing to the goals of an F1 team, and I believe that I would be able to do that. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.
Q: Finally, just a little bit of fun. Can you tell me something that not many people know about yourself?
SB: My middle name is Jamie :)
Sam and his manager James Oliver must take a lot of credit as they make arranging the interview very easy indeed and respond at just a moment of notice.