Vettel Replaces Speed
July 31, 2007 | 9:30 A.M. EST
Shortly after BMW Sauber F1 team released 20-year-old test driver Sebastian Vettel, Scuderia Toro Rosso confirmed that the German youngster would replace Scott Speed as driver of the No. 19 STR2 for the remainder of the 2007 FIA Formula One World Championship season beginning at this weekend Hungarian Grand Prix.
The announcement comes midway through a tumultuous second season for both Speed and Toro Rosso. Neither the Manteca, California native nor his teammate Vitantonio Liuzzi have been able to score a points paying finish this season in 10 races for the small budget outfit. In 28 career starts, Speed’s best career finish was ninth.
Points are awarded to the top eight finishers every race in Formula One competition.
By contrast, Vettel already has a championship point to his record as he finished eighth earlier this season while subbing for the injured Robert Kubica at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for BMW Sauber.
However, this deal may have less to do about championship points than about team chemistry and harmony. It has been widely reported that following the Grand Prix of Europe on July 22, Speed’s frustration hit a high point and he got into an altercation with Team Principal Franz Tost.
As a result, the racing career of the first American Formula One driver since Michael Andretti in 1993 appears to be over.
The announcement is also a bitter blow to American interests in the sport as it was also announced just a few days ago that there would be no Formula One race in the United States next season.
On the other side of the equation, Vettel’s signing can be considered a major coup for Toro Rosso as the German is considered a star of the future by many inside the garage. Vettel’s driving career got a major boost at the age of 12 as he joined the Red Bull Junior Team in his early karting years. Since then, he has been guided by both Red Bull Racing and BMW Sauber, both of whom had a contract with the youngster.
With his finish at the U.S. Grand Prix, Vettel became the youngest driver in history to earn a championship point.
"BMW and Red Bull have a longstanding partnership in supporting Sebastian. Toro Rosso is the sister team of Red Bull Racing, and in that context it makes sense for us to release him," said BMW Sauber Team Principal Mario Theissen. "In a sponsoring partnership the main thing is to use the best opportunities that present themselves to a young driver at any given time.
"As our test and reserve driver Sebastian has carried out sterling work for us."