American fights through pain barrier for another top-ten finish
Although he crashed on the first lap, Toro Rossos Scott Speed still calls the US Grand Prix at the Indianapolis the best race of his rookie season so far. He was astounded by the enthusiastic support he got from the fans and the media in his home event. Now Speed has added another star to his season with a determined drive in France.
After the race in Indianapolis, Speed returned to his base in Fuschl am See, Austria. The plan was to relax after his incredibly hectic but enjoyable two weeks of the North American Formula One double-header. Speed got plenty of rest, but not in the way he had planned.
It was supposed to be really relaxed, said the Californian before Friday practice at Magny-Cours, but I started getting sick on Wednesday (July 5), and I am just now getting over it. So my little vacation time in Fuschl turned into a lot of sleep.
I got some kind of infection. I might have got bitten on my hand by a spider. Nothing too crazy, but it took all the fire out of me. Maybe it is because I have been so flat out.
One of Speeds strengths as a driver is that he usually stays on the track - the accident in Indianapolis was not his fault. But on the opening day of practice for the French Grand Prix he made an error and spun off in the second session, backing his Toro Rosso into a tyre-lined wall, leaving him 24th in the times.
The accident was my mistake, he admitted. Earlier I had been using the right-hand curb at Turn 7 and getting away with it. Then I tried to use it a little bit more, and it turned around and bit me! It launched the rear into the air, and I immediately lost control of the car.
In qualifying on Saturday Speed made it through the first cut and into the second session where he posted the 15th-quickest time. He started the race in 14th as Nico Rosberg was penalized 10 grid places (from ninth to 19th) for having a new engine installed in his Williams.
Qualifying did not go too well, Speed said, because we (Speed and team mate Vitantonio Liuzzi) were unable to get the most out of our tyres on our first flying lap. All the same, I was very happy with my final lap, which was very good from a driving point of view.
Both of us did our fastest laps on the second timed lap of each run, which is never a good sign on new tyres. I was surprised because tyre degradation here is usually very high. Our car is definitely better balanced in race trim, so I hope that pays off big time in the race. I reckon we can have a good race pace.
But by race morning on Sunday, Speed was in agonising back pain as a delayed result of his accident two days earlier. He did not take part in the drivers parade as he underwent last-minute therapy.
In the race, Speed had a good duel with Hondas Rubens Barrichello and passed him to take over 14th place. After that, Speed drove one of the grittiest races of his career as the tried to ignore the pain during the next 90 minutes. He moved up to 10th place, went off the track once because he could not concentrate, and then brought his car home for his third top-10 finish of the season.
It was horrible, Speed said of the pain. It was the toughest race for me I have ever done. It was very difficult.
Team manager Franz Tost praised Speeds efforts, calling this his best Grand Prix yet: Overnight, Scott developed serious back pain and trouble breathing as a result of his Friday crash. He was seen by a doctor, had an X-ray, and our physio team worked on him. He decided to start the race, and I think he drove his best race of the season.
Speeds next race is the German Grand Prix on July 30.