In the first of several interviews during Formula E testing, Badger’s resident Bobblehat Sarah Merritt presses Sam Bird on Season 2, as well as a few questions from Twitter!
I spent the day at Donington during second week of Formula E testing, and saw the DS Virgin Formula E team hard at work, with Sam Bird driving that day. I was lucky enough to be able to grab a few minutes of Sam’s time just ahead of the lunchtime pitwalk, and ask him a few questions:
How have you spent the break?
What break?! (laughs). We’ve been fairly flat out here at Virgin Racing and I’ve also had some WEC testing as well, so it’s been a fairly full on off-season, as it were. I did have a week away in Crete which was nice, but since then it’s been flat out.
Since we last chatted, you have won your home Formula E race in London. Does racing in front of a home crowd give you an automatic boost, a #SamBoost?
Yes, it felt unbelievable to win in front of a home crowd is a very special thing, and I’ve been lucky enough to do it twice this year, once in WEC, and now in Formula E, so not a bad year for home wins.
Touching on WEC, you drive for G Drive in their LMP2 car – how difficult is it to make the transition between the disciplines? Does it seem noisier, for instance?
Yes, but it’s what I’m used to, it’s what I’ve grown up with. I’m able to now distinguish between my Virgin work and my LMP2 work.
There’s a lot of talk at the moment about Haas joining F1 next season, and who is on the shortlist for that. I know I spoke to you about F1 when I saw you at WEC Silverstone in 2014 just after you’d left Mercedes as their test and development driver, and I wondered if you still think about F1, or if you are having far too much fun in the other series’ you now drive in?
I think you should speak to my team mate about Haas! As for me, no, I don’t have a budget of £15-20 million to take to a team, so I’m perfectly happy forging a career in other things.
Richard Branson seems incredibly supportive of the Virgin Formula E team, and of you as a driver. What’s he like to work with?
He’s a really good guy, very focused, and a guy that has done as much as he has done, it’s very inspiring. He obviously saw that this championship would be good for Virgin as a company, and I think it’s working very well.
Season 2 will see a lot of changes, as we start to see the cars diverging from their previously identical power train and its components. How do you feel it is looking for Virgin? Is it all going to be about reliability?
It’s going to be a lot about reliability, but also about making improvements. I think that with the introduction of Citroen and DS, we’ve been able to make a step forward, and it’s now a case of making sure that the car works and operates legally and correctly, and how it’s supposed to when it’s supposed to.
Now I have a few questions from fans on Twitter:
What is your favourite dinosaur?
If you are having a naughty food day, when you are able to eat what you like, what would your favourite indulgence be?
What’s the strangest gift you’ve ever been given by a fan?
A fan. An actual fan
[Sam then had to go off to an engineering meeting, before returning to sign autographs and meet fans on the public pitwalk. There was quite a crowd for him, and he spent a long time with his fans, which you could see they appreciated.]
The DS Virgin car looked sleek in its temporary black carbon finish, and I noticed that the cars had been named on the front wing, in a similar manner to the Virgin Atlantic fleet of planes. I believe these are the names of Richard Branson’s daughters.
Watching the team at work during the afternoon, we saw Sam complete a number of runs in both his and his team mate’s car, and on his return to the garage, he was quickly out of the car and giving feedback to the team as they analysed the data they’d gathered. The team are definitely making sure that they learn as much from the testing days as possible, and as Sam says, are looking to make a step forward as the second season of Formula E begins.