Home support excites Speed despite early American exit
Until about 30 seconds into the race, Scott Speed had a fabulous time in his first United States Grand Prix as a race driver.
California native Speed was the first driver from the United States to compete in his home Grand Prix since Eddie Cheever raced in the 1989 Formula One event in Phoenix. He qualified a strong 13th but was one of seven drivers eliminated in an accident on the second turn of the race.
Speed knew he would get a warm welcome from the fans at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but he was overwhelmed at the reception he got both at the track and around the city.
It has been incredible, he said. Unbelievable! They have been so supportive, and I got such a great feeling being at home in my home race. It is awesome. I never expected to come here and have such support from the Americans. It just goes to show how much F1 is starting to grow in America.
Out on the track, things were also going well for Speed, although he got off to a bumpy start in Friday practice when an electronic glitch caused him to speed in pit lane - earning a US $1,500 fine - and then stall.
In the afternoon session, he posted the 11th quickest time in his Scuderia Toro Rosso Cosworth.
There arent so many corners here, but its proving to be a complicated circuit as the car handles quite badly, as we have to take off all the aerodynamics to get speed down the straight, he said. So its very important to get the mechanical balance right, as thats what you are relying on in the infield.
The track is a bit dirty today, so finding the right balance is difficult. We have entry instability, and we have mid-corner understeer.
Qualifying went well, as Speed claimed the 13th spot on the grid, which was his best qualifying performance to date in Formula One racing.
I am convinced we need to have more races in America, because we seem to have better luck in qualifying! he said. This was the first time for several races that I didnt run into traffic.
We did a good job of engineering the car today. We have a good balance on new and old tyres, which is hard to get here, and that should carry through to the race. Its great to out-qualify the Red Bull Racing guys. Starting this far up the grid, I think weve got a great opportunity for points.
On race day, an American driver climbed into his car on the starting grid for his home Grand Prix for the first time since 1989. Unfortunately, Speed soon climbed out of his car after getting caught up in a multi-car accident just after the start.
I had a great start again, getting by Mark Webber and Ralf Schumacher at Turn 1, and then it all fell apart at Turn 2, Speed said. It wouldnt have mattered if Id tried to go inside or outside as the whole track was blocked with cars flipping all over the track. Thats motor racing, and as long as its not my fault, theres nothing I can do about bad luck.
Im just sorry for all the home fans who turned up to see me race. Well done to Tonio Liuzzi for getting the teams first point with his eighth-place finish.
Speed scored a point for Toro Rosso in the Australian Grand Prix but it was stripped after officials penalised him for passing in a yellow-flag zone. So the team was happy with Liuzzis efforts at Indianapolis.
Weve come close before, but now weve got the teams first point, Liuzzi said. We can go forward from now on, looking for more points.
At first I was worried for Scott, because I thought he might have been hurt, until the team told me he was fine. Then I was racing with Coulthard, but he was a bit quicker than me in the second stint. We are on fire now! Hopefully we can continue to improve for the rest of this season.
On the Monday after the United States Grand Prix, Speed headed back to his European home in Austria. The next race is the French Grand Prix on July 16.
Before leaving Indianapolis, Speed once again praised the fans.
The fans here are very knowledgeable about F1, he said. It is a great crowd. Everyone I meet on the street, even if I am not wearing Red Bull gear, recognizes me easily. It was a pleasant surprise to feel the support I got this weekend.