It is generally accepted in motor racing circles that “you can’t overtake in Barcelona” but it would seem that Sam Bird never received that particular memo…
Over the course of both of this weekend’s races, in his first ever GP2 Main Series event, the young Briton produced a driving display that Autosport.com called an “overtaking masterclass”.
The event had begun in highly impressive fashion, but one that suggested that serial overtaking might not be on his weekend to-do list, with Bird setting the fastest time in free practice and qualifying third on the grid.
However, at the start of Race 1, a first-corner incident involving three cars forced Sam wide and over the high kerbs to avoid the melee. With a damaged front wing, he had to pit immediately for a replacement and rejoined the track in 21st and last place by a distance.
Bird then set about to produce some lightening-fast laps to catch up to the pack, setting the fastest lap of the race, the bonus point for which would only be awarded to him if he finished in the top 10.
The prospect of progressing from 21st to 10th on a track where overtaking is a rare occurrence, as later illustrated in the Formula One race, seemed like a very tall order, yet Bird got to work and proceeded to pick off his opponents one by one, lap after lap after lap.
Van der Garde, Arabadzhiev, Chilton, Herck, Zaugg, Gonzalez, Valerio, Tung, Kral and Ericsson successively fell victim to Bird’s searing pace and unstoppable overtaking manoeuvres.
Now in the top ten and with third year Series returnee Davide Valsecchi ahead of him in ninth, one might have expected rookie Bird to “know his place” and settle for tenth. But the scalp of the reigning GP2 Asia Champion was too hard to resist and Bird left him in his wake as well at turn 5, renamed “Bird Corner” by Eurosport’s live TV commentator.
Incredibly, despite having pitted once more than everyone else, Bird now had 8th in his sights, a place that would earn him another point and, crucially, pole position for Sunday’s reverse grid.
Leimer’s substantial lead over Sam vanished in a handful of laps but, sadly for the Briton, the race ran out of time and he crossed the chequered flag just 1.6 seconds behind the coveted 8th place.
Starting 9th in Sunday’s sprint race, Bird produced more of the same fireworks, successively despatching Ricci, race 1 winner Pic, Clos and Turvey to take 4th place. Like the previous day, only the time limit of the race prevented him from making further progress up the field to claim what would have been a well deserved podium finish, following a scintillating two-day display.
“I am obviously disappointed to only walk away from Barcelona with 4 points, given the pace we had here” said Bird. “The race one incident really cost me but these things are part of racing, so you just have to accept them and get on with it.”
“But the main thing is that we have shown that we are working very constructively as a team to produce a highly competitive package. The car was really strong car this weekend and I want to say a big thanks to everyone at ART GP for all the support and hard work”.
The next round of the GP2 Series takes place in Monaco, next weekend.