Speed Back On Track At Melbourne
March 20, 2007 | 8:40 A.M. EST
Speed, America’s only Formula One driver, is back in action with Scuderia Toro Rosso for the 17-race 2007 season, including his home Grand Prix on June 17 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The season kicked off March 18 in Australia.
After some light-hearted fun giving rock stars Tommy Lee (Motley Crue) and Lukas Rossi (winner of the TV show contest “Rock Star: Supernova”) a ride around the track in a Ferrari sports car, Speed and his team got down to work preparing for the Australian Grand Prix.
Because the STR2 Ferrari had such a late debut, the team is still playing catch-up.
"As expected, we are quite far behind at the moment as we learn about a lot of things that we should have done in testing," Speed said after posting the 19th-fastest time in the opening day of practice March 16.
"Lots of stuff on the car is brand new for today, and so inevitably some of it didn’t work. The one positive element is that it is clear that we will be able to develop this package through the season and can do something with it.
"It’s going to be a tough time until we get some more testing under our belt, as we seem to be quite a way off the pace, unless some of those ahead of us were on low fuel loads."
Speed qualified 18th, two spots ahead of his teammate, Tonio Liuzzi.
"The car was no better than yesterday because we are not going to be able to improve this car until we get some testing behind us," Speed said.
"We are throwing darts in the dark, and on top of that my qualifying was completely (ruined) by traffic, when as I came past the pits there were three cars coming out the pits in front of me going into Turn 1. Also on my last lap, there was some dirt on the track, and I had a moment at Turn 14. Tomorrow if I can keep the car within the white lines, I will be happy."
On race day, Speed stayed on track until Lap 29 of the 58-lap event.
"I had two flat front tires after the pit stop," he said. "It was a mechanical problem with something in the valve stems. I started losing air pressure in the front, and immediately after the pit stop I started having massive understeer.
"Going into the fastest corner on the track, the outside front tire exploded, and I went straight off the track.
"Luckily there was gravel in front of me instead of a wall!"
And so the bang of a blown tire ended Speed’s first Grand Prix of the season. California native Speed plans to spend a week in Australia before heading to Malaysia for the next F1 test session followed by the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday, April 8.