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Scott Speed’s Nurburgring diary 09 May 2006

Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, European Grand Prix, Practice Day, Nurburgring, Germany, 5 May 2006 Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Nurburgring, Germany, 6 May 2006 Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, European Grand Prix, Practice Day, Nurburgring, Germany, 5 May 2006 Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR01 locks up at the Dunlop corner.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Nurburgring, Germany, 6 May 2006 Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Nurburgring, Germany, 6 May 2006

Toro Rosso star encouraged by team's speed in Germany

“It was our best race so far this season on pace,” said Toro Rosso’s Scott Speed following his performance in Sunday’s European Grand Prix. The American finished 11th, his best result yet in his rookie Formula One season.

Speed drove from himself from Austria, where he is based between races, to Germany’s Nurburgring circuit. The trip took six hours and with sections of Germany’s autobahns still without speed limits, Speed was able to safely push his Maserati Gran Sport to its 160 mph (260 kph) plus top speed.

By the end of the first day of practice on Friday, Speed had set the 23rd-quickest time in his STR01. “It’s difficult to say where we are today,” he said afterwards. “The track is still quite dirty so it is hard to judge where we are in terms of our pace, although you don’t have to look too closely to see it’s not looking too good. But we did get over the worst of the problem early in the afternoon session.”

In qualifying the following day, Speed missed the cut and did not proceed into the second heat of the knockout session. “That was really frustrating,” he said after ending up 19th. “In Imola (the San Marino Grand Prix) we were unlucky with traffic, and exactly the same thing happened today in qualifying.

“I think our pace was good but, once again we did not get the chance to show it. Hopefully, some time soon, I’ll get a clean qualifying lap and someone else will get blocked. This time I had to pass (Takuma) Sato on my quick lap, and then I got held up by a Midland in the last chicane as he came into the pits. The red flag didn’t really affect me.”

Part way through the first qualifying session, an electronic glitch caused a message to display on the teams’ TV screens indicating that a red flag was out to halt the session. It was a false alarm quickly rectified, but not before some drivers had aborted their qualifying runs.

While disappointed not to make it through to the second round, Speed was philosophical about the new knockout system. “That’s what this qualifying format is about this year,” he said, “so hopefully, we’ll get lucky one time.”

While he qualified 19th, Speed started 17th as Williams drivers Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg had been demoted 10 places each because of engines changes in their cars.

The Nurburgring places a premium on chassis handling over pure horsepower, and for that reason Speed said the European Grand Prix was one of the best opportunities of the season for his Toro Rosso team to score points.

But in the race on Sunday, Speed’s team mate, Vitantonio Liuzzi, crashed out just after the start when he collided with David Coulthard of sister team Red Bull Racing. “I avoided it all,” Speed said of the confusion in first turn.

After that, Speed settled in for the 60-lap race. He ran 15th in the opening stages, moved up to 13th and eventually finished 11th. While he missed getting into the top eight and into the points, Speed was pleased with his afternoon. “The race was awesome,” he said. “We were quite a bit quicker than Heidfeld and Trulli. That says enough for Toro Rosso, race pace-wise. So for us it was a very good race. We made another step up the learning curve.

“Our pit stops are a place where we are lacking a lot on all sides. And we are suffering in qualifying. The qualifying we are not going to be able to really change, but the pit stops we will be able to improve as the team gets better.”

After a post-race debriefing with the Toro Rosso engineers, Speed climbed into his Maserati for the drive back to his base in Austria. He planned to spend a couple days relaxing and training before flying to Barcelona, Spain, for the Spanish Grand Prix on May 14.