Speed Heads Back Home
June 27, 2006 | 9:23 A.M. EST
"Even here (in Canada) I felt so much more support than normal," California native Speed said, "so it is a great feeling being on this side of the Atlantic. Next weekend is going to be the pinnacle for me."
Speed, who drives for Scuderia Toro Rosso, is the first American to race in Formula One since Michael Andretti in 1993. And he will be the first driver from the United States to compete in his home Grand Prix since Eddie Cheever Jr. took part in the 1989 USGP in Phoenix.
"I am very excited to see how much support I will have at Indianapolis," Speed said.
Speed finished 10th in the Canadian Grand Prix after an intense late race battle with Jenson Button (Honda) and David Coulthard (Red Bull Ferrari). An accident brought out the Safety Car with 10 laps to go, and that bunched up the field. Button, Coulthard and Speed ran in close formation.
Coulthard squeezed by Button to claim eighth place, but Speed couldn’t quite manage a pass and finished the race less than half a second behind Button.
"The last laps were quite fun," Speed said. "I could smell the points up there. I was pushing quite hard. It just didn’t work out, and I never got an opportunity to go around Button. He was a bit slower than the two of us, and I was putting pressure on him.
"But I had to let (race winner Fernando) Alonso go by right in the middle of our battle, and that gave Button some breathing room for DC (Coulthard) to get by. Otherwise, I might have been closer and been able to capitalize on their battle."
The Toro Rosso team put flawless pit work for Speed.
"The team did a great job," he said. "The pit stops they did were really great. It is some thing we have been working really hard on as a team. We have taken a step forward in that area. Other than that, it was just staying out of trouble today."
And there was plenty of trouble out there with the track breaking up and becoming incredibly slippery off the racing line.
"It was the most marbles we have seen all year," Speed said. "It was a treacherous race. I had quite a few close calls. When you went off on them, you lost a second or more. It was very tricky. It was a race of attrition."
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal is, like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s F1 circuit, a track that calls for the cars to be set up with a medium- to low-downforce aerodynamic configuration. Speed found his Toro Rosso to be more competitive than he thought it would be in Canada, and that bodes well for the race in Indianapolis.
However, the long straight at Indianapolis also calls for lots of horsepower, and that is one area where the Toro Rosso cars are at a disadvantage because they run a rev-limited V10 engine while the other cars run the new, more powerful V8s.
"I know that we don’t have as much power as the rest of the guys," Speed said, "but I don’t think it is going to affect us much. But we will see."
After the race in Canada, Speed traveled to New York for a couple of days of promotional engagements, and then he flies to Indianapolis.
There will be more media buzz around Speed at Indianapolis than at other races because it is his home Grand Prix.
"There is going to be more media attention," he said, "so there is going to be more time I have to spend away from my engineers to take care of that, but that is part of the job and not anything unexpected."
Of course, there will also be a lot more attention from the fans, as well.
"I expect that I am going to have a lot of support from my countrymen," Speed said, "and I hope we have a good race to give them something to watch."