Speed Fights Pain For Top-10
July 17, 2006 | 2:14 P.M. EST
But Speed has added another star to his season with a determined drive in France.
After the race in Indianapolis, Speed returned to his base in Fuschl am See, Austria. The plan was to relax after his incredibly hectic but enjoyable two weeks of the North American F1 double-header with races in Montreal and Indianapolis. Speed got plenty of rest, but not in the way he had planned.
"It was supposed to be really relaxed," California native Speed said in the Magny-Cours paddock before practice got underway for the French Grand Prix, “but I started getting sick on Wednesday (July 5), and I am just now getting over it. So my little vacation time in Fuschl turned into a lot of sleep.
"I got some kind of infection. I might have got bitten on my hand by a spider. Nothing too crazy, but it took all the fire out of me. Maybe it is because I have been so flat out."
One of Speed’s strengths as a driver is that he stays on the track. The accident in Indianapolis was not his fault as other cars hit him. But on the opening day of practice for the French Grand Prix, on Friday, July 14, he made an error and spun off in the second session and backed his Scuderia Toro Rosso into a tire-lined wall.
"The car is not too bad here,” he said, “and I think we can be quite competitive. In terms of setup and tires, it’s not looking too bad, either.
"The accident was my mistake. Earlier I had been using the right-hand curb at Turn 7 and getting away with it. Then I tried to use it a little bit more, and it turned around and bit me! It launched the rear into the air, and I immediately lost control of the car."
Speed ended up with the 24th-fastest time.
In qualifying on Saturday, July 15, Speed made it through the first cut and into the second session where he posted the 15th-quickest time. He started the race in 14th as Nico Rosberg was penalized 10 grid places (from ninth to 19th) for having a new engine installed in his Williams-Cosworth.
"Qualifying did not go too well," Speed said, "because we (Speed and teammate Tonio Liuzzi) were unable to get the most out of our tires on our first flying lap. All the same, I was very happy with my final lap, which was very good from a driving point of view.
"Both of us did our fastest laps on the second timed lap of each run, which is never a good sign on new tires. I was surprised because tire degradation here is usually very high.
"Our car is definitely better balanced in race trim, so I hope that pays off big time in the race. I reckon we can have a good race pace."
By race morning, Sunday, July 16, Speed was in agonizing back pain as a delayed result of his accident two days earlier. He did not take part in the drivers’ parade as he underwent last-minute therapy.
In the race, Speed had a good duel with Rubens Barrichello and passed him to take over 14th place. After that, Speed drove one of the grittiest races of his career as the tried to ignore the pain during the next 90 minutes. He moved up to 10th place, went off the track once because he could not concentrate, and then brought his car home for his third top-10 finish of the season.
"It was horrible," Speed said of the pain. "It was the toughest race for me I have ever done. It was very difficult."
Team manager Franz Tost praised Speed’s efforts, calling this his best Grand Prix yet.
"Overnight, Scott developed serious back pain and trouble breathing as a result of his Friday crash," Tost said. "He was seen by a doctor, had an X-ray, and our physio team worked on him. He decided to start the race, and I think he drove his best race of the season."
Speed’s next race is the German Grand Prix on July 30.