Scott Speed conference call, Tuesday, June 12, 2007 Q: You have had a whole season go by now since you were here, what are some of the most important lessons you've had in that year? SS: Certainly the experience that you gather in Formula...
Scott Speed conference call, Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Q: You have had a whole season go by now since you were here, what are some of the most important lessons you've had in that year?
SS: Certainly the experience that you gather in Formula One, the racing, the overall weekend, is priceless. You can't replace it with anything. F1 is quite a bit different than any of the other race categories, so just going through the motions during race weekend, knowing who the top players in F1 are and how to influence them positively. You learn a bit of everything.
Q: Your experience at Indy last year was cut short, what are some of the things you are looking forward to most coming back again?
SS: I guess I am most looking forward to being home in America. Certainly last year I had amazing support from everyone in town, and I look forward to going back and getting the same this year.
Q: Throughout the season, especially the last couple races, you looked really strong in the early weekend practices only to have trouble during the race, how are you able to overcome that, and is that something you are looking forward to overcoming here in the U.S.?
SS: Yeah I mean it is difficult to look at the performance in practice because F1 is definitely special in that it is so much influenced; lap time is, by things outside the driver's control, especially in practice. Depending on what fuel loads you are running, how many tires you have used and what kind of engine modes you are running you can influence the time by seconds. So you don't really know where everyone is during the weekend until you get to qualifying, but in any case it has been a slow start to our season and we have definitely improved a lot. Especially since Barcelona and we are still missing at this point a few more developmental parts that will give us an even bigger jump up and we won't have those until France. But it is encouraging to see where we are at now, and we can kind of see where our target is and we are pretty confident we will be able to reach it this year, which is to be in the points a few times.
Q: As a quick follow up, what are your expectations for Indianapolis?
SS: It's always I think similar to Canada to be honest. Maybe not quite the same race pace as we had in Monaco, because I think the long tracks don't suit us quite as well this moment. But certainly we hope to be in Q2 and have a strong race.
Q: It wasn't that long ago at Indianapolis that we had that tire fiasco that resulted in only the Bridgestone guys getting out there. Do you think there is any residual effect from that, because it did have some impact on the fans' interest. What do you think, are we over that now? Is that long behind us?
SS: To be honest I have no idea, I mean last year I didn't see a shortage of fans in Indianapolis, and that was the year immediately following. Personally, I haven't heard anything about it until you just asked me, so I would assume it probably isn't a big deal at this point.
Q: What is the perception of the other drivers from around the world of the talent level of American open wheel drivers and how do you think you have affected that perception?
SS: Certainly when I first moved to Europe and first started racing, the respect was very little. I am sure there is not very much respect for American drivers even now. The level of competition in Europe is definitely a lot more. The people who try to come from American racing, who have only done that in their past, to European racing, normally have a rude awakening because it is much more competitive and a totally different style. For me, definitely it has taken a while to get respect. But when I reached F1 I felt I had the respect of my peers and I feel as though I am an equal to them. Certainly for anyone coming from America, you are going to have to go to Europe, you are going to have to pay your dues and race in their world, if you are going to want the same respect.
Q: Do you feel scrutiny from people like Marco Andretti or Graham Rahal who aspire to F1 where they sort of think that how you do, how things go over there will have an effect on their career path?
SS: I think how I do has very little to do with how their careers will unfold. F1 is a very small world and there are very few seats that open up each year, and they are very difficult to get into. I was very fortunate with my relationship with Red Bull to have the opportunities that I had to get into F1, but whether I do well or poorly in F1, I am not quite sure how that would affect their careers.
Q: Just wanted to see if you had any memories of Manteca that you'd like to discuss, just some things that people in town might relate to and talk about some of your time down here.
SS: Most of my memories from Manteca are like anyone else's, playing softball, minor league stuff with school, playing football. I did the same things in town that everyone else did, I went to the waterslides as often as possible and watched the town grow. It has been amazing to come back to Manteca in the last four years, because I am only there a couple weeks out of the year and see how much commerce has grown in the town. We have Starbucks and Jamba Juice there now - it's quite a bit different than when I was living there as a kid.
Q: What schools did you go to here as a kid?
SS: I went to Shasta Elementary School and East Union High School.
Q: What year did you graduate from East Union?
Q: Coming from Manteca, is there any kind of advice you'd have for the younger kids here as to how they can follow their dreams?
SS: I'd say anything is possible, if you want it bad enough, that's for sure. Especially with what I have had to go through with my disease, I have always told people never to give up if they want something, because it's not too late.
Q: You had a pretty good view of the Kubica accident, since your car was there when you retired, can you tell us your thoughts when you saw that?
SS: Funny enough I was sitting in one of the marshal's chairs about two and a half meters from where he hit the wall, so I was quite startled, to say the least. We didn't expect to see any cars over there. But in any case, from my point, it was a very, very big accident and I was very worried for Robert the whole race and did whatever I could to find out any information about his status because I was just stranded out at the racetrack, so it was a quite worrying last part of the race to say the least.
Q: What is your feeling on Indianapolis' 2.605-mile circuit now that you are going to be driving it a third time since you were the Friday driver three years ago? What is the key to getting around this racetrack quickly?
SS: It's definitely quite a bit different track than we normally drive. It's such a long straightaway and such a slow and slippery infield, so you are forced to take off wing to go down the straight, but you slide around a lot more in the infield than you do anywhere else in the world, so from a driver's perspective it's quite fun to drive, because the car moves around quite a bit more than normal and it's not the worst for passing either because it's such a long straightaway.
Q: What are the best passing zones at Indy for you?
SS: Like most places in F1, passing is most often done when someone makes a mistake, but certainly the straight gives the best opportunity; at the end into turn one.
Q: You had kind of an uncertain off-season, and everything came together fairly late. Can you talk about that and the uncertainty of that and how that affected your preparation for the season?
SS: For me, I had no real uncertainties in the off-season, because I had always known that I had a contract with Red Bull and I knew they would honor it. I think you'd have to ask Gerhard Berger about that, but I think it had more to do with negotiating a new contract for me and nothing else, so for me I had no worries. I continued my off-season as I normally do, training as hard as I could to get ready for this year.
Q: What is your contract status now going forward, is it just for this year, or does it extend to next year?
SS: I can't discuss the details of the contract.
Q: Do you think the expectations of the team, and your expectation for yourself will coincide? Do you think you are being asked to do more than the equipment is allowing you to do?
SS: It certainly feels that way sometimes, because I think Gerhard expects quite a lot. At this point, I am happy with myself, that's for sure. I think we have had a great beginning of the year and I think I have started out better than I did last year. For me, I am happy with everything I have done and that is the only thing I can control.
Q: How do you gain respect when you haven't scored any points, had a few accidents, haven't made your mark yet as far as getting on the podium or anything? How do you feel you are gaining respect among your fellow drivers?
SS: Well that's a bit of a funny question. I mean in F1, it is very easy for me to walk with Alonso or Lewis Hamilton as equals. F1 is a sport that is controlled almost completely by the performance of the team. Most of the teammates qualify and race next to each, you would never see anyone jump into a Toro Rosso car and put it on the podium in the last few years. So for us, once we do get to F1 it's almost easier for us all to respect each other, because we understand more than anyone how little we can control our performance because like I said, in F1 it is so much more a team sport than any other form of racing, because many things are out of the driver's control.
Q: If you were managing a young driver and he didn't have tons of money, which path, what series would you chart for him to run through to get to F1?
SS: You would have to try to get the driver to Europe. The only other option would be to try to make it through Champ Car and try to transfer from there to F1. But the series itself, so much has been going down these past years and very few people have had success doing it that way. So I think the only opportunity to get into F1 would be to go through the ranks in Europe and have an opportunity to race in GP2, because out of all the young drivers coming up, most are either coming through that or the Formula Renault series.
Q: How would one get to GP2? How difficult is it for an American driver to raise money here to get to a series in Europe? You had Red Bull behind you and they are no longer involved in driver development, so how would another young American do what you've done without a company like Red Bull, or do they need a company like Red Bull?
SS: I went through those same motions myself until Red Bull got involved and the most success I had was a couple of free scholarship rides with Skip Barber, a couple races in the Formula Mazda Championship, and the Jim Russell Racing School in Sonoma, California. That was the extent of what I was able to do myself. I know very much how hard it is to go into racing without money behind you, and to get to F1 that would be impossible. There is no other reason I am standing here than the program that Red Bull had and the support they have given me these past four years.
Q: You said at this point you are happy with yourself and how you are doing, but I have to ask, are you feeling any pressure to score at least one point this season as the races are ticking down to either stay with the current team or to stay within F1?
SS: A lot of that is out of your control and I definitely have the view where I don't look at the results as what makes me happy, because results are not something you can control. I mean if you look at today how many people score points that would normally never score points, you can maybe realize that in F1, to be in the right position to score points, a lot has to go your way. Especially for us with how competitive we are at the moment, there is definitely a place I can see in the almost immediate future where we are quicker and more competitive which will definitely help our quest to score more points. If you do a good job in your race, have a good start, make very little mistakes, make good passes then you have to be happy with yourself. And if you keep doing that the only hope is that one time it will work out for you and you'll be in ninth place and a guy will drop out before the finish, but that kind of stuff you can't control.
Q: Is your disease (colitis) totally in remission?
SS: It is not really in remission at the moment, but it is a disease I will have for the rest of my life and something that I have learned to deal with I think pretty well, to where it doesn't affect my performance or daily life that much. It's still with me, that's for sure, but it's not to the point where it's hurting me in any way.
Q: Let me ask you about fan access. American fans are used to having more access to drivers in terms of autograph sessions and F1 is still kind of distant in terms of having an eye to eye relationship with fans. What is your feeling on that? We have talked to young drivers, like Lewis Hamilton about this, and he'd like to see more interface with fans. What do you think?
SS: I think you're right in that it is quite a bit more, let's say out of the public's reach. I remember being a fan of motorsports and I never saw an F1 car up close until I had the opportunity with Red Bull to see it. It would definitely be better for the fans if it was more open, but it would also lose the exclusivity of F1, where you can't even buy your way into an F1 paddock, it is very special. So for me, Bernie and those guys, I think they have done a pretty good job of making F1 what it is today, and I think they have a pretty good idea of what they need in the future.
Q: How has your brother Alex being with you this year helped your performance?
SS: It has helped actually, because being the only American driver in F1, it is a very lonely experience, because there haven't been any American drivers in so long. But the presence of Americans in F1 through the people who run the sport, sponsors, it's very little, and you start to miss home and you start to miss your culture quite a lot. So to have Alex travel around with me and help me organize myself, and help me on the track as well because we have a good relationship and he knows quite a bit about the driving part, it has definitely helped.
Q: Talk a little bit more about being the only American in F1, do you feel more comfortable than when you started in F1? Is there less distance between you and the other drivers?
SS: I definitely feel more comfortable. I definitely feel like I belong here and it's nice to feel as comfortable as I do with everyone in the sport. Because it wasn't such an easy introduction.
-credit: red bull