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Scott Speed’s Monaco Grand Prix diary 30 May 2006

Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Monaco Grand Prix, Race, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, 28 May 2006 Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso with the Red Bull hospitality girls.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Monaco Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, 27 May 2006 Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Monaco Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, 27 May 2006 Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso in the Superman themed Red Bull Racing Energy Station.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Monaco Grand Prix, Preparations, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, 24 May 2006 Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Monaco Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, 27 May 2006

Solid performance takes American through to chequered flag

Ever since he raced karts as a child, Toro Rosso’s Scott Speed dreamed of one day competing in Formula One. And to get to race in the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix was really a dream come true.

“Monaco is awesome,” said Speed, the USA’s only Formula One driver, after the first day of practice. “It is the most intense track I have ever driven in my life. I used to think, last year when I did it in GP2, that it was easy - yeah, there are walls, but nothing crazy special. But in a F1 car, this place is unbelievable. It is crazy. Everything comes up really quick, and you have to be very precise. It is very difficult.”

Besides the track that twists through the streets, Speed found the entire Monaco experience unforgettable. “The atmosphere of the whole town is special,” he said. “It’s where we get to act like superstars. All the movie actors are here. It is the Hollywood of the F1 circuit.”

Speed drives his Maserati Gran Sport road car to many of the Formula One races in Europe, but he left it back in Austria this time because Monaco is a sea of exotic cars during the Grand Prix week.

“I thought about driving the Maserati down here, but I realized that if I had the ‘Maz’ here I am still looking like a ‘scrub’ because everyone has Ferraris and Aston Martins!” he said. “So I left it at home and flew here. Besides, you can walk faster around here than you can drive because of all the traffic. Having a car here is useless.”

As for as his Toro Rosso Formula One car, Speed found the twisting, narrow confines of the Monaco circuit to be quite a challenge. “It’s very tough,” he said after the first day of practice, in which he set the 23rd fastest time. “It’s hard to say where we stand, but I’d say we were struggling a bit today. I lost a bit of track time in the first session, so we had to play catch-up a little bit.

“When you come to a place like this, compared to (my team mate) Tonio Liuzzi, who was able to race here last year, right off the bat he was so much quicker because he had the track knowledge.”

In Monaco, the first day of practice is Thursday and the teams have Friday off before qualifying Saturday and racing Sunday. Many drivers expressed concerns about encountering traffic on their qualifying runs now that the new format has all 22 cars on the track for the first of the two knockout sessions.

Speed set the 19th-quickest time in the first session, missing the cut into the second session. “Franck Montagny blocked me for my first two laps on new tyres,” he said, “and after that my tires were past their best, and I was well off the pace with no chance of improving my time. So coming in before that part of the session was over did not make any difference because Montagny was still in front of me.

“It’s a shame because my pace was better than Tonio’s at one point, and he ended up 13th. I’ve had horrible luck in qualifying this season, just the worst. But well done to Tonio, who did a great job today.”

In the race, Speed finished 13th in an ill-handling car and felt somewhat bruised after his body took a battering inside the cockpit. Liuzzi was placed 10th.

“It was a disappointing race for us,” Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost said, “because, for example, if you look where the two Ferraris ended the race (fifth and ninth) having started behind us, then you can see that we put in a weak performance. We now have to work on all the areas where we are losing out.”

On the bright side, Speed went though two days of practice and qualifying and 77 laps of racing - he was only one lap down on race winner Fernando Alonso - without crashing or even brushing the walls and barriers. And that is something that is exceedingly difficult to avoid doing in Monaco.

“I am not the most aggressive driver out there,” Speed said, “but this track is very intense. It is a special circuit. I am glad it is on the calendar.”

Speed believes his slightly conservative approach is paying benefits. “Doing that equals my strengths,” he said. “Our race pace has been incredible. And I have not taken the car off the track once all year. It has always been my style to not drive over my head, so I am fast when it counts and I normally don’t crash. Even if I could change my style, I don’t think I could because it is something that is my personality. For me, it seems to be working out.”

Speed’s next race is the British Grand Prix on June 11, and then he heads home for the North American double-header with the Canadian Grand Prix on June 25 in Montreal and the United States Grand Prix on July 2 at Indianapolis.