Question: Which driver has won races on the iconic circuits of Monaco, Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps this season?
Answer: Mercedes junior driver Sam Bird, driving for the Russian Time entry in the GP2 series.
Everyone has known about the talent Sam Bird possesses for a long time now, but why hasn’t he being able to make the final step up to Formula One? We know he’s good enough. Its obvious he hasn’t got the financial backing of the likes of Esteban Gutierrez or Max Chilton, but sometimes money isn’t everything. With Mercedes backing, you’d have hoped they’d help him get into F1, but it hasn’t happened that way. He still remains on the sidelines in F1, and remains plugging away in the junior categories.
Bird began his single seater career in Formula BMW in 2004 driving for Carlin Motorsport, coming fourteenth overall in his debut season and second overall in the rookie cup. Returning in 2005, this time with Fortec Motorsport, he was runner up, and also came fourth in the Formula BMW world final. In 2006 he entered the British Formula Renault Championship, again with Fortec, and won four times in finishing 4th in the standings. His results earned him the 2006 Autosport Club Driver of the Year award!
2007 saw him enter the British Formula 3 championship, rejoining Carlin in the process. He won twice, and for the third year in a row finished fourth in the championship standings. He also raced on the iconic race tracks in Macau & Zolder in the Macau Grand Prix and Masters of F3 events. 2008 saw him move to the Manor Motorsport team in the Formula 3 Euro Series, failing to win a race this time but grabbing two podiums in finishing 11th in the standings. He improved to 8th in 2009, but still failed to win a race. He did grab a podium at Macau at the end of the year however for ART Grand Prix.
He joined the GP2-Asia Series for the winter of 2009/10, again with ART, and grabbed one podium finish before finishing seventh after the 8 races. He continued with ART in the main GP2 Series in 2010, winning the Italian feature race and finishing four other times on the podium and 5th in the championship. He also earned a call up to the Mercedes F1 set-up and ran in the young drivers test for them. A switch to iSport in 2011 in both the GP2 Asia & main series yielded only three more podiums however.
In 2012 he switched over to the Formula Renault 3.5 series with ISR Racing, and won twice (in Monaco and Silverstone) and was a contender all year, finally finishing third in the championship standings, behind only Robin Frijns and Jules Bianchi, both highly-regarded in the motorsport world. In 2013, it looked like Bird would be out of a drive before a last minute deal with new GP2 team Russian Time was signed, and the Brit has looked great all year. He has won four times, in Bahrain, Monaco, Silverstone and most-recently Spa, and sits 4th in the championship at present and is definitely in championship contention. He has impressed many up-and-down the paddock with some stunning drives.
Impressing he might be, but Sam Bird looks ever increasingly likely to miss out all-together on Formula 1. Mercedes may have him on their books, but with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg already driving for them, he is unlikely to get a drive there. The other Mercedes-powered outfits aren’t likely to take him on either, each of them with their own drivers to promote. An outside bet could see him in a Williams-Mercedes next year, especially with the Toto Wolff link to the team, but even there it looks like Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas will remain there next year.
So what next for Sam Bird. Does he continue to ply his trade in the GP2 or Formula Renault series’, or does he move on to pastures new? Could it be move to the American IndyCar series, or possibly into the world of GT Racing? If he does, it’ll be a shame as in my opinion and in the right team, Bird could be a championship contender in Formula One. It’ll be a massive shame if he doesn’t get into F1, but we all know how harsh motor racing can be.