Early British Exit For Speed
June 12, 2006 | 3:25 P.M. EST
The British race, round eight of 18, takes place at Silverstone, a track that Speed knows well from testing. It’s a horsepower circuit, and that meant that Speed and his teammate, Tonio Liuzzi, knew their Scuderia Toro Rosso cars would be at a disadvantage because of their power-restricted V10 engines.
Speed set the 24th quickest time on the opening day of practice Friday, June 9.
"From what we have seen today and looking at the times, it’s clear we are going to struggle a bit this weekend," Californian Speed said. "The car is working well. It’s got good balance, but we just don’t have the power down the straights. Although it’s much hotter than we expected, there are no problems on the tire front."
He had a quick spin but did not damage his car.
"For some reason I had a big problem with stability on rear brakes," he said. "I hit the brakes, and suddenly I was facing then wrong way. So we still need to improve our rear-end stability a bit."
Qualifying on Saturday, June 10, went well for Speed as for a change others had bad luck. He made it through the first knockout stage and into the second session, qualifying 15th.
"Of course, I have to be happy with making it through to the second part of qualifying for the first time since Bahrain, although funnily enough, I have started from higher up the grid, when other cars have been put at the back," he said. "In terms of car performance, I have a few problems with the rear end. I think I am going to have to fight to tame this beast in tomorrow’s race."
Unfortunately, his race lasted just one lap. He made a great start and passed two cars and then made a move on Ralf Schumacher.
"That’s when I realized Ralf didn’t see me and was coming across," Speed said. "I tried to slow down to get out of the way. But I could not slow down enough, and he came across my front."
Speed hit Schumacher’s Toyota, which then collided with Mark Webber’s Williams Cosworth. Schumacher and Webber retired on the spot while Speed limped back to the pits where the Toro Rosso crew found that his suspension was too damaged to continue.
All three drivers had to report to race control to explain what happened. The officials declared nobody was at fault.
"We talked to the race stewards after the race," Speed said, "and Ralf declared it as a racing incident, and so did we."
Speed then flew to his base in Salzburg, Austria. He will test at the Monza circuit in Italy this week, have the weekend off, and then head to North America.
The first American F1 driver since Michael Andretti in 1993, Speed will become the first American driver to race in his home Grand Prix since Eddie Cheever Jr. competed in the 1989 United States Grand Prix in Phoenix.
Being the first American in F1 in 13 years does not put any extra pressure on him, Speed said.
"It does not put too much more pressure on me than I already put on myself anyway," he said. "I am a real competitive person. I’ve worked my whole life to race, and I didn’t do it so that I could come second. I want to win and fulfill my dreams to become F1 World Champion.
"Being the only American was difficult when I first came to Europe, but now that I have established myself and I know to all the key players in F1, I feel more like an equal."