Speed has another bad weekend in France

Having finished 13th in his home United States Grand Prix on June 17 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Scott Speed went to the French Grand Prix where the weekend did not end as promisingly as it started.

Speed had an enjoyable but hectic time during North America's Formula One double-header with races in Montreal and Indianapolis. Speed, a native of Manteca, Calif., then headed for his home away from home, the Austrian village of Fuschl Am See.

"It was very nice," he said. "I very much liked the few days in Austria spending time with my girlfriend, Valentina."

Then it was on to Magny-Cours in central rural France for the Grand Prix.

On the opening day of practice Friday, June 29, Speed covered 33 laps and was 15th quickest. In the afternoon, he turned 21 laps and ended the session an outstanding third quickest. His teammate, Tonio Liuzzi, ended up fifth.

It was a stunning performance, Speed's best yet in F1, but he was realistic about it all.

"I am not sure exactly where we stand, as you don't know what the others are doing in terms of fuel load," he said. "Certainly, we were on the low side when I did my quickest lap."

This was the first time Toro Rosso ran its new seamless-shift gearbox on a race weekend. The system, used by most of the teams, prevents an engine power drop during the milliseconds it takes to shift from one gear to the next.

"The gearbox is definitely a step forward, and the car was not bad today," Speed said. "We struggled a bit from understeer. This afternoon, I had a few problems, including one with the steering wheel, that prevented us from getting through all our program, apart from looking at the tire comparison. And even that was not so conclusive, as I had a problem on the warm-up lap for my last run.

"Generally, we look more competitive than we have in past races. Now we just need to work hard, keep our heads down and try not to make any mistakes for the rest of the weekend."

On Saturday, June 30, Speed clocked the 18th-fastest time in the morning practice session and completed 18 laps. In qualifying that afternoon, he made the cut in the first qualifying session to get into the second session for the second time this year.

He didn't make it to the final session, Q3, but qualified 15th in Q2. It was his best starting position this year.

"I was definitely not expecting to repeat yesterday's performance," he said. "We like to keep our feet on the ground here at Toro Rosso! I had a good run in Q1, and then the track conditions started to be a bit more difficult for our car as it got more rubbered in.

"We struggled a lot with the front end, trying to get the front to grip in the slow speed corners, and that problem was worse in Q2. The car balance in the high-speed corners is good and quite drivable, and it is easy to produce a consistent performance with what I think should be a good race car."

But Speed's car didn't have great pace in the race. Still, he probably would have finished 15th if the gearbox had not broken on Lap 56 of 70.

"It was all of a sudden, as I shifted from second to third out of the hairpin," Speed said. "The car up until then was slow. At least we are very similar to Red Bull. They are in a worst boat than we are because they should be a fair bit quicker than us."

Speed's next race is the British Grand Prix on Sunday, July 8.

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