Scott Speed, the United States’ last competitor in Formula 1, is turning 29 years old today. Despite a wealth of backing from drinks giant Red Bull, Speed never delivered on his apparent promise in Formula 1.
After suffering with colitis during his childhood, the appropriately-surnamed Speed took a shine to motorsport early on.
With support from Red Bull – keen to shore up its market presence by backing an American driver all the way into F1 – Speed took the German and European Formula Renault titles in 2004, and finished a distant third in the 2005 GP2 championship with four podium finishes.
Promoted to the role of Red Bull’s test driver in the 2005 Canadian and US GPs, Speed’s subsequent 28-race F1 career was spent with Toro Rosso, debuting in the 2006 season. He looked to have scored his, and the team’s first point at the third round in Australia, but was penalised 25 seconds for overtaking under yellow flags, and hit with a $5000 fine for abusive language to David Coulthard at the post-race stewards hearing.
He qualified a (then) career-high 13th at his home race in Indianapolis, only to be taken out at the first corner by the accident triggered by Juan Pablo Montoya – his disappointment was tempered further when his team-mate, Vitantonio Liuzzi, scored the team’s first point with a drive to eighth.
and arrogant manner had earned him few friends in the paddock, and he was a last-minute re-signing with Toro Rosso before the 2007 season got underway; it was felt by many that his appointment was met with great resistance by STR team bosses, but ultimately Red Bull (who control the purse strings) had their way.
Aside from a fighting drive to ninth at the Monaco GP, the early half of Speed’s sophomore season was blighted by retirements and accidents – most notably two separate and very clumsy collisions with Williams’ Alexander Wurz.
His F1 foray came to a crashing halt at the rain-hit European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, where, after one of several drivers to aquaplane off the circuit in teeming conditions, it was alleged he got a little physical with team boss Franz Tost in the paddock.
Respect for him was by now at an all-time low, and having spent the past few months telling any journalist who would listen that the team was looking to oust him, it promptly did that after his contretemps and appointed a certain Sebastian Vettel in his place. The rest, as they say, is history…
A persona non grata in Formula 1, Speed returned home to the United States where he started to carve out a career in NASCAR.
Last year, he made an attempt to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 with Dragon Racing, having never piloted an IndyCar before. Not surprisingly, he was miles off the pace in practice and both parties parted ways before qualifying even began, each blaming the other.