Great start by American foiled by early retirement in Spain
Scott Speed and his team arrived in Spain in high spirits and with optimism. During the four-week break between the races in Bahrain and Spain, Toro Rosso had made improvements to the Ferrari-powered STR2, and the team was anxious to see how it stacked up compared to the competition, who had also brought updated cars to Spain.
Besides working hard testing the car, Speed relaxed in the sparkling spring weather at his base in Austria during the break. Settling back into the cockpit of his Formula One car, Speed turned the 10th-quickest time around the Circuit de Catalunya on the opening day of practice on Friday.
We definitely seem to be more competitive this weekend, although my 10th place today doesnt mean much, said Speed, who completed a total of 54 laps. The developments we tried at last weeks test here, especially those on the aero front, are a step in the right direction. But we still have a long way to go to make up for lost time this winter.
We are doing better, the team is doing a good job and this is an improvement. But there have been growing pains today with problems on my front wing endplate and my seat. However, these are little things that are easy to fix.
Qualifying on the following day turned out to be very unsatisfactory as Speeds car broke down before he could post a lap time in the first session. His team mate, Vitantonio Liuzzi, fared little better, qualifying 16th.
What happened on both cars was very disappointing, Speed said, because when you look at Tonios pace and the lap time he did to get him into Q2, I think our performance level was better than what I had expected after yesterday. But the transmission problem meant I never even posted a time. On my out lap, as I tried to change gear, I got a neutral and the engine died. Then as I started my flying lap, it happened again, and I almost went off the track. It got worse, and that was it.
However, I repeat, we have definitely made a step forward, and there is more stuff in the pipeline. I think when all these elements are working we are going to see a better Toro Rosso.
According to Toro Rosso technical director Giorgio Ascanelli, the team were pushing the performance envelope and adopted an aggressive solution on the transmission front.
We were a little bit too ambitious, he explained. Friday was almost trouble-free, but with a steep learning curve. Saturday morning, running a more aggressive gearbox strategy on both cars, we had problems with Tonios car. That afternoon, both cars suffered the same fault. For Sunday, we can find a solution to get around this issue.
Because he didnt have a qualifying time, Speed lined up in the 22nd and last place for the 66-lap race on Sunday. He didnt stay last for long. As the field came screaming by the start/finish line at the end of the first lap, Speed was in 14th place.
It was an amazing start, an amazing first lap, Speed said. Things just went right for me. I was in the right place at the right time. It wasnt as if I did anything particularly spectacular. I had a great start, and I was particularly aggressive in Turn one. But other than that, I just made the right decisions whether to be on the inside or the outside, and it really paid off.
Speed settled in for the long race.
I wasnt as quick as Takuma Sato, who was in front of me, but my car wasnt bad, he said.
But on the ninth lap, Speed detected something wrong with his car. Then, on Lap 10, the left rear tyre blew on the front straightaway, and Speeds Toro Rosso ground to a halt.
A lap and a half before it happened, I started losing rear grip, Speed said. I think it is the same thing that happened to me in Australia. But, in any case, it was something similar to that.
In the Australian Grand Prix, a valve stem problem caused an air leak, and the tyre eventually failed. Liuzzi had a hydraulic problem and also retired in Spain. All in all, it was a disappointing outcome for the team.
Speed is now looking forward to the next race in Monaco on May 27.