A weekend of highs and lows for the American driver
Scott Speeds Turkish Grand Prix started with a bang for Toro Rosso and ended with another valuable file of racing information and experience stored away in his brain for use in the future.
The Formula One fraternity took its annual break between the races in Hungary and Turkey, and Speed spent most of the time at his base in the mountain village of Fuschl am See in Austria. He planned to do a lot of outdoor physical training, but the weather had other ideas. It rained a lot of the time, he said. There were a few days when it stopped raining, and I was able to get on the bike.
Speed also spent time involved in various fascinating fields of the aviation world. He got a ride in a restored World War II B-25 bomber. He also made two trips to Budapest where he watched the Red Bull Air Races, and he had thrilling ride in an aerobatic plane with the pilot doing all sorts of manoeuvres.
Peter, the favourite Hungarian pilot on the Red Bull team, took me up and did all the flips and twirls and tried to pull a lot of Gs, Speed said. For 8.5 Gs, I thought it was quite easy. The G force in an F1 car, at about 5.5, is more difficult to deal with.
The G force in the plane, going down, is compressing your body: You dont have to do anything. You just sit there and let it compress you. It does not hurt at all. In a car you have to really fight it a lot more.
Then it was on to Turkey. As usual, Speed stayed in his motor home at the track, but he still had to face the daunting traffic crossing the bridge over the Bosphorus Strait at least once, as he had to go into the city centre of Istanbul for PR work.
Out on the Istanbul Park track, which Speeds rates as one of his favourites, he set the 14th-fastest time in his STR01 on Fridays opening day of practice.
Well, that was not looking so bad was it! the Californian said afterwards. In fact, it is looking good for us. Why? Because this track seems to suit our car very well. I feel very good in myself, too.
Like a lot of circuits this season, this is the first time I have driven this track in an F1 car, and this is a difficult one to learn. I expect Suzuka in Japan to be toughest, but this is number two on the list.
It is hard, especially the long left-hander at Turn 8. Its pretty much going to be flat and its a bit insane, although I dont feel its dangerous, because there is so much space, but you really need to believe in what youre doing there.
Speed was less pleased after he qualified 18th the following day: I am not too happy with this result as for some reason there was a big difference between our pace in practice and qualifying. But the car is still really good, and I expect us to have a better race pace. We have good top-end speed, though, and the car is good in the top speed corners. Turn 8 is really special, where you pull 5 Gs laterally. It hurts, but I love it!
Sundays 58-lap race started with a multi-car crash in the first turns. The drivers at the front set it off, and the drivers further back had little room to manoeuvre out of trouble. Speed was caught in the melee.
I was in pretty deep myself in any case, Speed said. I think everyone misjudged their braking a little bit, myself included. I had a little bit of a drift, but that just meant I had a little less control of where I could go. I still would have made the corner if there had been nobody stopped in front of me. I still would have had no problems. But a McLaren stopped in front of me, and I just ran into him.
Speed headed for the pits for a new nose on his car. Luckily for the American, the Safety Car came out on Lap 14 due to a spin by his team mate, Tonio Liuzzi, and that allowed Speed to catch up with the field.
Our race pace was really good, Speed said. We were quicker than all the guys in front of me, including the Red Bull guys, so it was a good race for us. We knew that our car was going to be pretty competitive here.
In the closing laps, Speed chased after fellow rookie Robert Kubica in the BMW Sauber: It was very difficult because Kubicas BMW was very quick. It was impossible to pass him without him making a big mistake, and even with his tyres worn and me being so much faster by pace, it was too difficult to get around him.
Speed crossed the finish line in 13th place. I had a couple good battles out there, he said. And I gained valuable racing experience.
The Toro Rosso team now head to Monza for testing ahead of the Italian Grand Prix there on September 08-10.