When free practice began on the second weekend of the 2009 F3 Euroseries, Sam Bird had never set foot at the Lausitzring, but that did not stop him from stamping his mark on yet another meeting.
Although many of his opponents had either tested or raced at the eastern German venue in the past, Bird topped the timesheets at the end of Friday's session, showing that he was still very much the man to beat, and Saturday morning's qualifying looked set be another opportunity for the Briton to assert his superior pace - just as he had done by securing pole at Hockenheim two weeks earlier.
However, the rain wreaked havoc on the half-hour shoot-out and the session was blighted by repeated yellow and red flags. In the last few minutes, with the 21-year old Mucke Motorsport driver on a very hot lap - with front row-worthy first and second sectors, his efforts were thwarted by yet another caution flag, forcing him to lift and settle for eighth on the grid.
Undeterred, Bird made a superb start to the first race, grabbing fifth place by turn one. However, on a track notorious for its lack of overtaking opportunities, he was unable to move further up the order, despite race-long pressure on Brendon Hartley, and remained in fifth to the end.
That meant that he would start race two from fourth place by virtue of the reverse grid format, but Bird immediately had the position snatched away from him by a blatant jump-start from Valtteri Bottas. Determined to redress the balance, the Briton then spectacularly out-braked several opponents into turn one to slot back into his original position and when, two laps later, Bottas was given a drive-through penalty, that proved enough to move the Mucke car into third spot. Although he again spent the remainder of the race pressuring the man ahead of him, a return to the podium was as good as it got.
“I'm obviously pleased with the podium finish today - that was important for me and for the team as well,” Bird commented, "After we led the way in free practice, it's disappointing that the weather conditions turned the qualifying session into a bit of a lottery, but that's racing sometimes. You just have to deal with what you get and try to make the most of it. I feel we did well in that respect.“
Bird scored a total of eight points at the Lausitzring, moving him up to second in the championship, just two points off the leader as the series prepares to head to the quirky Norisring street circuit on 27-28 June. In the meantime, however, he will be looking to uphold British honour in the prestigious European F3 Masters at Zandvoort, which takes place over 13-14 June.