Team eager to keep Klien on track at Imola
Red Bulls decision to race Vitantonio Liuzzi in place of Christian Klien at the next three rounds of the FIA Formula One World Championship has left the team searching for someone to pilot their third car in Friday practice sessions.
The sporting regulations state that third drivers cannot have raced in six or more Grands Prix in the last two seasons. This puts Klien out of contention, though Red Bull have reportedly been asking other teams whether they would be willing to support a change to the rules.
Red Bull do have a number of other options, however, thanks to their Junior squad. Favourite for a Grand Prix outing at Imola would have to be American youngster Scott Speed, who topped the times during a highly impressive Formula One test debut with the team at Barcelona recently.
Speed, 22, arrived in European single-seater competition via Red Bulls Driver Search scheme in the United States, the programme that aims to find Americas next Formula One world champion. After modest success in British Formula Three in 2003 Speed went on to win last years German and European Formula Renault series in dominant fashion.
This season he is due to compete in the new GP2 series, the Formula 3000 replacement that kicks off at the San Marino Grand Prix meeting. A third driver role with Red Bulls Formula One team would give Speed a very busy Imola weekend - perhaps the team fear it would be too busy, given their apparent eagerness to get Klien into the role.
The other obvious option would be to go with Speeds fellow Red Bull Junior Team member Neel Jani. The Swiss driver, a four-time winner in last years Formula Renault V6 Eurocup, was outpaced by the American in their recent Formula One test, but the 21-year old does have more experience in Grand Prix machinery thanks to previous sessions with Sauber. Like Speed, though, Jani too has a GP2 race debut to worry about at San Marino.
In the end the decision is likely to be made for Red Bull. If somehow they can get Klien past the regulations, it would be foolish not to go with the Austrian, given his race experience with the RB01.
If their reported attempts fail, they will surely go with Speed. He may not bring Kliens level of technical feedback, but he would guarantee the team huge media coverage - the last time an American driver played an official part in a Formula One meeting was in September 1993 when Michael Andretti finished third in the Italian Grand Prix, his final race with McLaren.