Top 10 GP2 Driver of the Year 2011:
Roehampton, United Kingdom
2 (Asia), 45 (Europe)
12th (Asia), 6th (Europe)
After a maiden GP2 season in 2010 with ART that saw him finish in 5th place, the experienced British driver Sam Bird would definitely have been looking to mix it with the series favourites (Romain Grosjean and Jules Bianchi among them) for the title this year.
After a best-forgotten GP2 Asia mini-series (three retirements including collisions with Johnny Cecotto Jr and his own team mate Marcus Ericcson) the European season seemed to be going encouragingly according to plan, with three podiums in the first three races of the season. Even after a disappointing Monaco weekend (which saw him exit the feature race after another embarrassing collision with his own team mate) he was still tied for the lead in the points with Romain Grosjean and had everything to play for. He would end up tangling with Grosjean directly on the track during the Valencia sprint race - a collision for which Grosjean was blamed and penalised.
Some spark went out of Bird's season at this point. He was still scoring consistently and would score in seven out of the remaining ten races in 2011, and also managed to staunch the flow of collisions and incidents that had plagued his earlier races. But there were no more podiums - his best weekend was two fourth places at the final weekend in Monza - and simply scoring the odd point here and there was no longer enough to keep up with the likes of Grosjean, Bianchi and the Barwa Addax duo of Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic, let along the phenomenal late-season run of Luca Filippi.
Finishing sixth place at the end of the season would have been a disappointment to Bird who had seemed set for so much more early on. Even though he had managed to finish well ahead of his team mate Ericsson (by more than 20pts), it was still a step down from 2010 and the lack of a race win also spoke volumes.
Will Bird be back in GP2 in 2012? Ericsson is already signed up, but the feeling is that iSport might be looking to someone fresh such as Tom Dillmann to carry their colours in the second car next season.
Top 10 GP2 Driver of the Year 2011 results so far:
8. Giedo Van Der Garde
9. Tom Dillmann
10. Luiz Razia