American beats heat to produce solid finish in Sepang
Scott Speeds intensive months of training during the off-season paid off as he made a gritty, painful drive to 14th place in the sweltering heat of the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The Sepang race takes place in high humidity and in temperatures nearing 100 degrees. Covered in long fireproof underwear and three-layer fireproof coveralls, the drivers endure intensely hot conditions inside the cockpits of their Formula One cars.
Speed was well prepared for the race weekend, having trained in Phoenix in the winter and tested at the Malaysian circuit recently. But on the car front, California native Speeds first day of practice on Friday did not go smoothly.
Track conditions seem similar to those at last weeks test, so no big surprises from that point of view, Speed said after posting the 20th-quickest time. Im glad we got that opportunity to test because today I never got much proper running. First off in the morning, I had to run the spare car. And because it had never been used before today, that meant the usual stuff with a new car, like sorting out the pedals and the driving position.
Then I had to sort out my own race car, so I only really ran properly at the end of the second session. At first sight, my prognosis for here is the same as in the Australian Grand Prix, meaning we are still quite a bit off the pace.
The cars pace picked up the next day. Speed just missed the cut at the end of the first of the three knockout qualifying sessions. So he lined up in 17th for the race in his Toro Rosso.
We have definitely made a step forward with the car this weekend, which is good, he said. But I did not manage to get everything out of it on my last run, as I made a mistake in the final corner. Without that, maybe I could have also got through to the second session. In any case, our pace is better, even though we have a long way to go. I think that as far as tomorrows race is concerned, maybe we can run a bit more competitively than we did in Melbourne.
Speeds car proved more competitive than in the Australian Grand Prix, where he retired with a blown tyre. He avoided trouble on the opening lap in Malaysia and climbed to 14th place. But pit stops and quicker cars climbing from the back dropped Speed a few positions as the race progressed.
In the middle part of the race, his Toro Rosso was in a train of cars consisting of Rubens Barrichellos Honda, Ralf Schumachers Toyota, Jenson Buttons Honda and the Super Aguris of Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson. Speeds car was set up more for cornering speed than maximum speed down the straights.
Our car was missing some straight-line speed, and it was very difficult for us to fight, Speed said. I was not going to pass anyone and was just trying my best not to get passed. But our overall pace was decent because we had a bit more grip in the high-speed corners.
By this time, Speed had other concerns. The foot box in his Toro Rosso was getting extremely hot because of a lack of cooling.
I had quite a problem with my brake foot with the temperature, he said. I have a big blister on my foot. In the middle of the second stint, I already felt it big time. It was the most painful race I have ever done in my life.
It was a solid, valiant race for Speed, who ended up 14th.
It was a decent result for the team, he said. Our race pace was a lot better than we thought it would be.
Speed and the rest of the Formula One drivers face another hot race this weekend at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday, April 15.