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F1 news

The iconic race that ended the career of F1's last full-time American

Before Logan Sargeant, the last full-time American driver in F1 was Scott Speed in 2006/2007. His career ended after one iconic race.

Scott Speed Nurburgring 2007
Article
To news overview © xpb.cc

The 2007 European Grand Prix was one of the craziest Formula 1 races of recent times. It featured a sudden rainstorm that shocked the field, one unfancied leader and a ding-dong battle for the win that continued on into the cooldown room before the podium.

It was the first ever Grand Prix of his fledging career that Lewis Hamilton did not feature on the podium, and was also the penultimate win for Fernando Alonso at McLaren.

But amid the chaos was a story at the back of the grid for the small Toro Rosso squad and a American driver who could not quite live up to his reputation, or indeed surname.

This was the 28th and final Grand Prix start for Scott Speed - with a infamous bust-up with Franz Tost easing a certain S.Vettel into the seat for the next round in Hungary.

Nurburgring chaos

Speed qualified an unremarkable 18th for Toro Rosso, although he was ahead of teammate Vitantonio Liuzzi and senior Red Bull driver David Coulthard.

Come race day, rain was in the air, but the field took the grid as normal for the lights out start, with Markus Winkelhock proving the exception for Spyker (now Aston Martin) on his Grand Prix debut.

He pitted for wet tyres as the heavens opened mid-way around the warm-up lap as everyone dived for the pits to change to the wet rubber after one racing lap - all except Kimi Raikkonen who slid through the pit-entry in his Ferrari and was forced to tip-toe around for another lap.

It left Winkelhock in the lead by some 33 seconds as the field began Lap 3 and Turn 1 became a river.

Jenson Button, Adrian Sutil, Nico Rosberg, Hamilton and Speed all aquaplaned off at Turn 1 into the gravel, although Hamilton was controversially craned back on the circuit to continue under the Safety Car. None of the other four were.

Later in the multi-car incident, Liuzzi in the sister Toro Rosso suffered the same fate, but hit the recovery tractor which had been let onto the track under the neutralised race.

Fortunately, it was only a glancing blow for the rear of the car, but as Martin Brundle said on ITV commentary: 'You do not want to be going underneath of those digger trucks' having hit one himself and injured a marshal at the 1994 Japanese Grand Prix in similar wet conditions.

The race would eventually be red-flagged with Winkelhock restarting on pole, although he was soon dispatched on the restart and eventually retired on Lap 13 when the hydraulics failed.

Alonso would win after a ding-dong with Felipe Massa with Mark Webber third for Red Bull, while Hamilton was a lapped ninth for the first non-points score of his Grand Prix career.

But while his would continue to record-breaking success, Speed's would end in that same gravel trap as he returned to America to take in NASCAR.

			© xpb.cc
	© xpb.cc

The fallout with Franz Tost

Speed, who is now a driver coach, admitted that he was over-confident and arrogant during his spell in F1 and that a return home to America aided his growing up process.

"What a great last race, honestly. Our car, as was proven by Vettel later in the year, was extremely good in the wet," he recalled on the F1 Beyond The Grid podcast.

"We started really far back on the grid. We were like 18th and 19th. I think I came to the pits 11th and I passed seven cars on my way, but they had the wrong tyres in the pit box. When they changed my tyres, they put [Liuzzi's] on and then they had to take them off. It basically cost us a ton of time. The race was over really from that point.

"Next lap, coming down the front straight, so much water had come down, and it's a really downhill corner. When I went to the brakes I just [aqua]planed.

"I didn’t even come close to making it. I went by the apex going 150 miles an hour, there was no way I was making it. So I crashed into the wall. As you saw, Lewis crashed there, Button was in the wall there. Everybody started crashing there. I remember thinking that was super fun.

I know we didn't get a result, but I passed a lot of cars. I remember passing Ralf Schumacher on the outside of one of these corners in the wet. It was so cool to feel like I had a fast car and I was making moves.

"I had such a great experience and Franz [Tost] was super pissed. I was just too happy about what happened. He asked what happened in Turn 1. I said: 'Well, the same thing that happened to everybody else down there. I [aqua]planed off the track. What do you mean 'what happened?' There's seven cars sitting out there.’

"And he says: 'No, not everybody, just the w*****s.'

"I told him to ‘f-off’ and I just totally dismissed him. He came chasing after me and let me know how displeased he was. I probably would have acted the same way. I showed him zero respect."

			© xpb.cc
	© xpb.cc

Replaced by Vettel

"I was just this young cocky kid and I finally found the limit of Franz's patience. I finally broke him. I think I was at home waiting to go to the next race. They called and said they’re going to put Vettel in the car, who was like the golden child.

"I remember watching by the computer at the Hungaroring. Sure enough, Vettel qualifies [20th] I don’t remember where he raced but it wasn’t amazing at all (a lapped 16th) then I knew for sure: 'Well, okay, great. I can pack my bag, I can go wherever I want. I know that I'm elite. I know I'm one of the best.'

"Maybe I'm not the best but I was so far beyond what I thought as a kid I would ever achieve, I was super happy. Then came the opportunities, the meetings with Williams and other opportunities to race.

"But ultimately, when I met with Dietrich Mateschitz soon after, I said: 'I want to go home. Can we race NASCAR?' He was fully supportive and I started a really humbling journey. The dissolution of the Scott Speed ego began at that moment."

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