“It was our best race so far this season on pace,” said Toro Rosso’s Scott
Speed following his performance in Sunday’s European Grand Prix. The American
finished 11th, his best result yet in his rookie Formula One season.
Speed drove from himself from Austria, where he is based between races, to
Germany’s Nurburgring circuit. The trip took six hours and with sections of
Germany’s autobahns still without speed limits, Speed was able to safely push
his Maserati Gran Sport to its 160 mph (260 kph) plus top speed.
By the end of the first day of practice on Friday, Speed had set the
23rd-quickest time in his STR01. “It’s difficult to say where we are today,” he
said afterwards. “The track is still quite dirty so it is hard to judge where we
are in terms of our pace, although you don’t have to look too closely to see
it’s not looking too good. But we did get over the worst of the problem early in
the afternoon session.”
In qualifying the following day, Speed missed the cut and did not proceed
into the second heat of the knockout session. “That was really frustrating,” he
said after ending up 19th. “In Imola (the San Marino Grand Prix) we were unlucky
with traffic, and exactly the same thing happened today in qualifying.
“I think our pace was good but, once again we did not get the chance to
show it. Hopefully, some time soon, I’ll get a clean qualifying lap and someone
else will get blocked. This time I had to pass (Takuma) Sato on my quick lap,
and then I got held up by a Midland in the last chicane as he came into the
pits. The red flag didn’t really affect me.”
Part way through the first qualifying session, an electronic glitch caused
a message to display on the teams’ TV screens indicating that a red flag was out
to halt the session. It was a false alarm quickly rectified, but not before some
drivers had aborted their qualifying runs.
While disappointed not to make it through to the second round, Speed was
philosophical about the new knockout system. “That’s what this qualifying format
is about this year,” he said, “so hopefully, we’ll get lucky one time.”
While he qualified 19th, Speed started 17th as Williams drivers Mark Webber
and Nico Rosberg had been demoted 10 places each because of engines changes in
The Nurburgring places a premium on chassis handling over pure horsepower,
and for that reason Speed said the European Grand Prix was one of the best
opportunities of the season for his Toro Rosso team to score points.
But in the race on Sunday, Speed’s team mate, Vitantonio Liuzzi, crashed
out just after the start when he collided with David Coulthard of sister team
Red Bull Racing. “I avoided it all,” Speed said of the confusion in first
After that, Speed settled in for the 60-lap race. He ran 15th in the
opening stages, moved up to 13th and eventually finished 11th. While he missed
getting into the top eight and into the points, Speed was pleased with his
afternoon. “The race was awesome,” he said. “We were quite a bit quicker than
Heidfeld and Trulli. That says enough for Toro Rosso, race pace-wise. So for us
it was a very good race. We made another step up the learning curve.
“Our pit stops are a place where we are lacking a lot on all sides. And we
are suffering in qualifying. The qualifying we are not going to be able to
really change, but the pit stops we will be able to improve as the team gets
After a post-race debriefing with the Toro Rosso engineers, Speed climbed
into his Maserati for the drive back to his base in Austria. He planned to spend
a couple days relaxing and training before flying to Barcelona, Spain, for the