Currently placed second in the GP2 Driver standings going into the final race of the season at Abu Dhabi, Sam Bird has every chance of clinching the GP2 Championship. With just seven points between himself and current leader Fabio Leimer, the GP2 Series is set to go down to the wire!
Sam boosted his chances no end with victory in the sprint race at Singapore last time out, giving the talented Brit his fifth win of the season. He aims to make it a sixth victory in the final round, doing all in his power to bring that Championship title home!
Sam is also a reserve driver for the Mercedes AMG F1 Team, which keeps him very busy throughout the season but is the perfect role to help him in achieving his dream of racing in Formula One.
We spoke to Sam to find out more about the exciting, British star and his hopes for the future...
SportPulse: Can you remember what first made you want to become a racing driver?
Sam Bird: Actually I can’t! My parents tell me that I used to pedal around the kitchen in a baby kart, before I could even walk, saying “Sam wacing dwiver!”
SP: At what age and where did you start your journey in motorsport? What was the first competitive series you raced in?
SB: When I was a young boy I nagged my mum and dad until they took me karting. The first time, I couldn't actually reach the pedals! Later, I competed in karts to the extent that we could afford to and then I won a BMW scholarship to compete in Formula BMW UK. That's where my single-seater career began.
SP: How did it feel to grab a race win at Silverstone earlier this season, your home track?
SB: It was a great feeling. British motorsport fans are probably the most passionate and knowledgeable in the World. I won at Silverstone in World Series by Renault last season as well and it was a real highlight for me then too.
SP: How much of a disadvantage do you think it was to not be able to do any testing before joining Russian Time this season?
SB: In motorsport, knowledge and historical data are crucial because this is a game of tiny margins. Being a new team with no self-generated data and missing pre-season testing put us at a significant disadvantage. We had to work twice as hard as our competition to try to catch up.
SP: Going into the last race of the season you have a chance of clinching the Championship, how does that feel?
SB: It feels good. It’s where we want to be.
SP: You do a lot of simulator work for Mercedes, how is your role there working out for you?
SB: Good. More importantly, the objective is for it to work out well for Mercedes. I am there to do a job.
SP: What is the highlight of your career to date? Which is your most memorable race?
SB: There are a few...My podium at Macau in F3, my first GP2 win at Monza my wins at Monaco, my wins at Silverstone. I could go on! I’m lucky that I have a lot of good memories. But I hope my best memories are still ahead of me... if that makes sense.
SP: Of all the tracks you have raced at, which one is your favourite?
SB: Probably Macau, with Monaco a close second.
SP: It is well documented these days that you have to be very fit to succeed in motorsport. What do you do in between races to keep yourself fit & ready for racing?
SB: I train hard. A lot of cardiovascular work including cycling and running and also some targeted weight training.
SP: What kind of a support team do you have around you (e.g. driver coach, trainer, nutritionist, PR)? What can you tell us about them?
SB: My main support is the management company, CJ Motorsport. They have been with me almost since the very start of my career and I am very, very close to them.
On the physical training side, I work with Pro Performance, who are excellent and I also use a very good chiropractor called Toby Colliver. The G-forces that our bodies are subjected to in F1 and GP2 are quite extreme and chiropractic helps keep my body in optimal condition.
SP: How hard is it at as a young driver to make your way up the racing ladder? What sort of struggles have you encountered?
SB: The main struggle has always been raising the budgets required to continue racing. This is where my management team at CJ Motorsport have been amazing at always finding ways to keep me racing. Fortunately, I have been a professional driver for the past couple of seasons, which is quite rare at this level. Having said that in order to make the step over to the F1 grid from being a Reserve Driver as I am now, I will probably need to find some sponsorship support. My management and I are working on it, but it is a tall order.
SP: Do you have a ‘bucket list ‘of certain races or championships you would like to take part in, in the future?
SB: I will settle for racing in and winning the Formula One World Championship! :) In the distant future, Le Mans 24 Hours would be a cool thing to do... and to win!
SP: What do you think is the potential path you have to travel to the pinnacle of racing, Formula 1?
SB: There are a number of paths but I would say karting is the ideal start. Formula Renault is a good intro do formula racing. Then F3 is a great school for understanding the technical basis of car setup and engineering feedback, and then GP3, World Series or GP2.
SP: Who were your racing heroes/idols growing up?
SB: Ayrton Senna (although I was too young to see him race “live”) and Michael Schumacher. I am fortunate that I got to work quite closely with Michael at Mercedes in recent years and we became quite good mates. He is a legendary sportsman and a really nice person.
SP: Among the current F1 teams and drivers do you have a favourite? If you were asked to pick an F1 team to drive for, which team would it be?
SB: I’m obviously going to big up my team and my boys at MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS F1 Team. They are a super-talented bunch of people and two superb drivers.
SP: In today’s World, where even the most talented young drivers are expected to be backed by sponsorship money. How do you see this impacting on your future prospects?
SB: The reality of F1 nowadays is that young drivers don't get their foot in the door unless they can bring some sponsorship with them. My track record will help to bridge the financial gap so I won't need to bring as much as the next guy but I still need to find something. On my way up the ladder I've been lucky enough to have some strong support from people that really believed in me, such as BP and Arrow Shipping. Now, one final push of support will get me to F1. Just that one final push...
SP: What are your goals/dreams for this year and the future?
SB: This year, the number one target is to secure the GP2 Teams Title for Russian Time but if I can win the Drivers Title in the process too, fantastic. As far as the future is concerned, we will see. I will let my manager worry about that, while I focus on the present. But I think my answers above make it quite clear where I want to be and where I feel I should be. I am ready!
Many thanks to Sam for taking time out to answer my questions.
Photo Source: Malcolm Griffiths-GP2 Series Media Service
You can read our previous interviews with Young Drivers here: http://www.sportpulse.net/formulaone/young-drivers