Power Outage Sinks Speed In Spain

If you were not a racing driver, what would you be doing now?

A reporter for a Dutch TV station asked Scott Speed that question during the Spanish Grand Prix weekend.

"I have no idea what I’d be doing!" Speed said. "I’ve been racing as long as I can remember, so I was always involved in racing in some form."

As a driver, California native Speed knows that auto racing is a sport of highs and lows, and he faced one of those disappointing lows in the Spanish Grand Prix when he had to pull his Scuderia Toro Rosso into the garage and retire from the race in which he ran in a strong 11th place.

Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya is a popular F1 testing venue, and Speed knows the track well.

In the first day of practice, Friday, May 12, he turned the 23rd-quickest time.

"We didn’t do much running so it’s actually quite hard to know exactly where we are here," Speed said. "As we expected, we are definitely losing out to the others in performance terms here with the very long straight. But generally the car is working quite well, no problems in the fast turns, but the hardest thing to sort out now will be the right choice between the two tires."

In qualifying the next day, Speed just missed making it through the first knockout session. The top 16 drivers advance to the second session, and Speed clocked the 17th-quickest time.

"Of course, I’d prefer to make it into the next part of the session," he said, "but this is pretty much where I expected to qualify anyway. I’m not disappointed because we took the definite decision to have the car set up more to have a good race pace for tomorrow rather than for today’s qualifying. I think this will pay off, and we should have a strong race pace. I have confidence in our tire choice."

While he qualified 17th, Speed gained a position on the starting grid because 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve was demoted to the back of the field after a penalty for an engine change in his BMW Sauber.

At the start of the 66-lap race, Speed vaulted past his teammate, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Christian Klien’s Red Bull and Nico Rosberg’s Williams to claim 13th place on Lap 1. As the race progressed, Speed climbed to 11th place.

Things were going well for America’s only F1 driver until his engine started to act up. At the end of Lap 47, he drove into the pits and retired.

"The car was great in the first stint," he said. "It was amazing that we were able to hang between the two Williams cars of Nico and Mark (Webber). That is pretty incredible for Toro Rosso.

"Legitimately we were running in 11th. We had a great opportunity for points. Again our pit stops were quite slow – we lost three positions – so that was a bit frustrating.

"We need to work, myself and the team, on being able to stop a bit more consistently in the pit box, and then as for the actual pit stop itself, the team is working as hard as they can to improve it. My in and out laps are fantastic. Braking into the speed limit is all perfect. The problem is the actual pit stop. We know now where we are suffering the most."

What made the retirement more disappointing was that Speed’s car was performing much better at this particular track than the he and the team expected.

"We were running really quick," he said. "So it is a shame because the pace was there. We will see what happens at the next race in Monaco."

The Monaco Grand Prix, round seven of 18, takes place on May 28. The United States Grand Prix, round 10, is on July 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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