American starting to enjoy benefits of Formula One lifestyle
Life as a Formula One driver sometimes has its perks. Not only does Californian Scott Speed drive an amazing car on the track - his Toro Rosso STR1 - he also gets to use a cool car on the road.
Red Bull drivers David Coulthard, Christian Klien, Tonio Liuzzi and Speed all have Maserati Gran Sport coupes, loaned to them for the year by an Austrian Maserati dealer. The drivers could choose the colour of their cars, and Speed picked red.
Speed also tried his new motorhome for the first time at Imola. Most Formula One drivers stay in hotels on race weekends, but BMW Saubers Jacques Villeneuve, Coulthard, Hondas Jenson Button and one or two others stay in their own motorhomes at the track for the European races.
The advantage is that you have less stress, Speed said. You have your food exactly as you want it. You can travel light - your clothes are already there. It is easier, but we will see how it turns out. This is the first time we tried it.
Speaking of stress, Speed and Coulthard have smoothed things over following their run-in at the post-race stewards meeting after the Australian Grand Prix. It is water under the bridge, Speed said. I am over it.
Speed went into the San Marino Grand Prix weekend in optimistic mood. The confidence level is much higher, he said. To go through the first three races without any huge mistakes or big crashes means that the confidence is building exponentially.
He was 23rd quickest in practice on Friday. Its really hard to tell what our real performance level is at the moment, he said afterwards. Its hard to compare with the others. The balance of our car is not too horrible. I think we are pretty close to where we need to be. Its the usual compromise on setup here to deal with the curbs, but our car is handling them quite well, although I dont know how we stand down the straightaways right now.
In qualifying on Saturday, Speed set the 18th-fastest time and just missed being in the group of 16 drivers that moved on to the second round of the session. I would have easily made it, but I got held up at the chicane by someone trying to get a good lap, he said. Its unfortunate, but thats the nature of qualifying this year, and we have to deal with it.
The team is improving every day, as the whole setup was new at the start of the year. Now we have three races under our belt and are back close to home, the improvement in the way everyone is working is clear to see, and theres still more to come.
In Sundays race Speed finished 15th. I might have passed (Nick) Heidfeld if I had not gotten so badly held up around the pit stops, he said. I was unlucky in that I let Michael (Schumacher) by a couple of corners before he pitted so I lost about five seconds there, and then when I came out of the pits I had a bunch of traffic. The cars pace was good; we were quicker than Heidfeld and quick enough to keep up with our senior Red Bull team! To add to my bad luck, my drinks bottle didnt work all race.
He will doubtless be hoping for better luck in the next race, the European Grand Prix in Germany on May 7.