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Scott Speed’s Barcelona Diary 16 May 2006

Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Spanish Grand Prix, Race, Barcelona, Spain, 14 May 2006 Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Barcelona, Spain, 12 May 2006 Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, 13 May 2006 Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Spanish Grand Prix, Preparations, Barcelona, Spain, 11 May 2006 Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Barcelona, Spain, 12 May 2006

Power failure ends promising race for American rookie

If you were not a racing driver, what would you be doing now? A reporter for a Dutch television station asked Toro Rosso’s Scott Speed that question during the Spanish Grand Prix weekend. “I have no idea what I’d be doing!” Speed replied. “I’ve been racing as long as I can remember.”

Not surprisingly then, California native Speed knows that motor racing is a sport of highs and lows, and he faced one of those disappointing lows in Barcelona when he had to pull his STR01 into the garage and retire from the race in which he ran in a strong 11th place.

The Circuit de Catalunya is a popular Formula One testing venue, and Speed knows the track well. In Friday’s first day of practice he turned in the 23rd-quickest time.

“We didn’t do much running so it’s actually quite hard to know exactly where we are here,” he said afterwards. “As we expected, we are definitely losing out to the others in performance terms here with the very long straight. But generally the car is working quite well, no problems in the fast turns, but the hardest thing to sort out now will be the right choice between the two tyres.”

In qualifying on Saturday, Speed just missed making it through the first knockout session. The top 16 drivers advance to the second session, and Speed clocked the 17th-quickest time.

“Of course, I’d prefer to make it into the next part of the session,” he said, “but this is pretty much where I expected to qualify anyway. I’m not disappointed because we took the definite decision to have the car set up more to have a good race pace for tomorrow rather than for today’s qualifying. I think this will pay off, and we should have a strong race pace. I have confidence in our tyre choice.”

While he qualified 17th, Speed gained a position on the starting grid thanks to Jacques Villeneuve’s demotion to the back of the field after a penalty for an engine change in his BMW Sauber.

At the start of the 66-lap race, Speed vaulted past his team mate, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Christian Klien’s Red Bull and Nico Rosberg’s Williams to claim 13th place on Lap 1. As the race progressed, Speed climbed to 11th place. Things were going well for America’s only Formula One driver until his engine started to act up. At the end of Lap 47, he subsequently drove into the pits and retired.

“The car was great in the first stint,” he said. “It was amazing that we were able to hang between the two Williams cars of Nico and Mark (Webber). That is pretty incredible for Toro Rosso. Legitimately we were running in 11th. We had a great opportunity for points. Again our pit stops were quite slow - we lost three positions - so that was a bit frustrating.

“We need to work, myself and the team, on being able to stop a bit more consistently in the pit box, and then as for the actual pit stop itself, the team is working as hard as they can to improve it. My in and out laps are fantastic. Braking into the speed limit is all perfect. The problem is the actual pit stop. We know now where we are suffering the most.”

What made the retirement more disappointing was that Speed’s car was performing much better at this particular track than he and the team had expected. “We were running really quick,” he added. “So it is a shame because the pace was there. We will see what happens at the next race in Monaco.”

The Monaco Grand Prix, round seven of the 2006 season, is on May 28.