Speed Gets Used To F1 Life
March 20, 2006 | 2:05 P.M. EST
"I left the circuit in Bahrain immediately after all the interviews, changed, grabbed the bags and was off to the airport and flew to Dubai," California native Speed said. "I spent the night there, got up early in the morning for a delayed flight – I really could have slept a lot more! – and went directly to Malaysia."
The first night in Malaysia, Speed and team members of Scuderia Toro Rosso went sightseeing in the city of Kuala Lumpur.
Later, Speed reflected on his first Grand Prix.
"Doing your first Grand Prix is an incredible experience," he said. "There are so many things you learn in one race that it is really hard to soak it all in. But we have had time to go back with the engineers and go over everything that has happened, and we are going to make a few big improvements for this weekend."
Training for the intense heat and high humidity in Malaysia was next on Speed’s agenda. The temperature was in the 90- to 100-degree range each day while the humidity was anywhere from 55 to 90 percent.
"Our bikes arrived a little bit late," he said, "so I was only able to ride them Thursday. Normally we would do cycling, so we were doing some cross-training with some tennis and running."
He also took time Thursday, March 16 to get his first lap around the Malaysian F1 track.
"It is a fantastic track," he said. "I went around the circuit this morning on my bicycle. It looks like a circuit where you have some options to use some different lines, while Bahrain is more of a straight up circuit that you can’t really experiment on."
On Friday, March 17, the first day of practice, Speed posted the 19th-quickest time.
"We did not show everything we had because we ran quite early on new tires," he said, "but we got more done on our race balance than some others. Race balance-wise, there are a few question marks, but we are looking good."
"It is an intense track. It must be amazing for a spectator to watch turns 5 and 6, because it is almost flat in sixth gear, and on the limit in both corners. It is an amazing set of corners."
The heat and the humidity meant drivers had a grueling time in the cockpits of their cars.
"It is going to be really hot in the race," Speed said March 17, "but I think practice is worse because when you come into the pits your body gets a heat soak, and the more temperature your body carries the more your physical condition goes down dramatically. So it is going to be about making your temperatures as reasonably as possible. Physically I have had no problems."
Speed set the 17th-fastest time during the first round of qualifying Saturday, March 18, which meant that he missed – by one spot – the chance to move up into the second round of qualifying. But because five drivers were penalized for having engine changes, Speed lined up 12th for the race.
"We did not do anything wrong in terms of my strategy for tackling the qualifying session," he said. "But I had traffic on both my quick laps. Basically, we have not shown good pace here since the start of the weekend, and that shows up most in qualifying. In terms of aerodynamics, we are losing out down the straight, but that is partly due to the (engine) restriction we run under to comply with the rules."
He was running in 11th place when the clutch lever behind the steering wheel failed on Lap 42 of the 56-lap race.
"I did not get off the line too well, because of the way we had the system set up," he said. "It’s too bad that I did not finish the race because this was the track where we expected to struggle the most. We were over-gripped aerodynamically, but me and my engineer got the setup about right in the end.
"After a poor qualifying, we ended up doing a good job, showing decent pace and having a good track position. It’s a shame, but I think we can come back stronger in Melbourne, as this place was never going to suit us."
Following the race, Speed, teammate Tonio Liuzzi and the Toro Rosso engineers met for a long technical debrief on the weekend.
The next race for Speed is the Australian Grand Prix on April 2.