American driver picks up pace for a solid finish
When it comes to speed, there is no faster place for a Formula One driver to go fast than the famous Monza circuit located on the outskirts of Milan, Italy. With an average lap speed of more than 240 km/h (150 mph), it is the quickest track on the Formula One calendar.
Scott Speed loves Monza. Not so much for the speed or the fact it is the home Grand Prix for his team, Toro Rosso, but for the history and the mystique of the legendary circuit that opened in 1922.
Im not old enough to have memories of my own about this place, he said. But every time I come to Monza, I feel the history here. I look at what is left of the old circuit and think: How did those guys race in those old cars around that banked track?' Awesome!
All the Formula One teams had tested at Monza before the Italian Grand Prix, and after that Speed wasnt too optimistic about how well his car would perform in race conditions. But he was encouraged after the first day of practice on Friday when he posted the 23rd-fastest time.
I think the car feels better today than it did last week when I was here testing for a day and a half, he said. It generally feels more stable. The improvement comes mainly from the tyres. The balance of the car seems fine to me, but until I look the data I am not sure where we stand.
In qualifying on Saturday, Speed did well to make the cut and move through to the second session. He lined up 15th for the race.
To be honest, I was quite surprised to get through to Q2 here, the Californian said. P15 at Monza is not bad, and if there are some reliability issues for others tomorrow, then maybe we can have a good race.
The balance of the car has been pretty good since last weeks test here, and it is just in terms of our overall performance that we are losing out. The engine feels OK, pulling reasonably well down the long straight. I noticed there are more Americans in the crowd here than usual at a European race, which is nice to see.
Speeds race was fast and furious as he attacked David Coulthard in the Red Bull in front and fended off Ralf Schumacher in the Toyota. Heading into the first chicane, Speed pulled off a bold pass on Coulthard while Ralf Schumacher smoked his tyres behind them.
Later, just as Speed came out after his pit stop, Michael Schumacher came up to lap him and then went bouncing across the first chicane. Speed had to back off and lost precious seconds. That put Coulthard, who had had a slightly better pit strategy, back in front. Still, Speed was pleased with his performance after finishing 13th.
It was good because I was able to overtake David on the track, and he never overtook me this year, notably in Australia! Speed said. We got really unlucky after the pit stop because when Michael passed me, he then decided that he wanted to go off the track for a little stroll.
Then I had a really big duel with Ralf, which cost me three or four seconds, and that allowed David to get out ahead of us. But we wouldnt have finished much above 10th or 11th, so it was good race.
The Italian Grand Prix was the last Formula One race in Europe for the year. The season closes with events in China, Japan and Brazil. Im looking forward to the last three races on three very interesting and challenging race tracks, Speed said.
Now Im off for some meetings in Milan, and from there Im driving all the way home to Fuschl in Austria. And with no testing, it means I get some real time off to relax and train before the next round in China in three weeks from now.