Provided by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's press office.
Q. Scott, we appreciate you joining us today.
Speed: Thanks for having me.
Q. Explain your mood heading into Bahrain? With your F1 race-driving debut and now as I look at the calendar today is the first, it's 11 days away, it's the 12th. Is there excitement, nerves, a mixture of both? What's your mindset right now?
Speed: To be honest, I think it's a bit of everything. You know, there's a ton of excitement and as well a lot of nerves. I'm trying to tell myself that, you know, I'm not really expected to do much with my lack of experience and everything else, but at the same time, you know, I'm a racing driver and I want to do really well performance-wise. You know, I'm just really trying to keep my head down and keep focused and hope it's a good weekend.
Q. Hi, it's Debbie Arrington, Sacramento Bee. Congratulations, Scott. This is, you know, fantastic and everybody here in the Sacramento area is very excited about this. What have you been doing these last two months to prepare for your F1 start?
Speed: Well, fortunately we've had quite a bit of testing in the new car. We were able to test the brand new Scuderia Toro Rosso, for the STR1 car in Bahrain already. So it's really been a lot of travel from test to test, and I actually just got back from Paul Ricard, doing a big media day with the new livery of the car, which I can tell you looks amazing. It's going to be a shock in the F1 world, I can tell you that. So it's really been doing a lot of in car training and then, you know, the normal physical training that I have regimented anyway.
Q. Hi, there. Dave Kallman, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Scott, I want to read you something that that Bob Varsha said in a conversation about a month or so ago and kind of get your reaction. He said: "I hope Scott understands that he bears a very significant responsibility. He's carrying the hopes of a lot of people to help raise the Formula One profile here in America." What do you think of that? Is that accurate? Is that fair? And how do you kind of deal with that?
Speed: To be honest with you, this is the first time I've heard it. But in a way he's right. I don't personally try to think about the responsibility I hold, although I am aware of it. That, you know, I have been ever since I've gotten to Europe under the Red Bull program. And it has definitely been very difficult to change the perception of American racing drivers in Europe ever since I first got here.
I can say, though, fortunately as far as like how I'm perceived by my colleagues, the other racing drivers and the people that are at the racetrack, the opinion of American racing drivers has definitely changed in the last three years after the success of myself and my other junior teammate, Colin Fleming, have had in Europe.
Certainly, as well, there's responsibility of trying to raise the awareness of Formula One in America. And it's something that I really hope we can do.
Q. If I can follow that up. You mentioned before that, you know, obviously expectation with you being a rookie are kind of unsure. And obviously at this time of the year, there's a ton of unknown going on. But - and your situation is kind of, you know, kind of strange with the Red Bull team and the Toro Rosso team. But how would you look at this, you know, going into this year are these more like Red Bull expectations are more sort of Minardi-like expectations?
Speed: No, I think that it's a total Red Bull deal. The whole environment has changed quite a bit. Of course, there's still a team mostly based of Italians, which really is quite a good fit because the Italians themselves, at least the ones in my team - I mean they're such driven people, and they really work hard at what they want to do.
They have a lot of passion in it. And I think that it fits very well with the Red Bull attitude. And, you know, as far as Red Bull expectation is that they really encourage us to just be ourself and to try our best, and the most competitive of the Red Bull drivers will be the one that rises to the top.
Q. Question for you on, you know, with the rule changes in Formula One and the new engines and some teams going back to the V10s instead of going to the new V8s, do you think this is going to make it a little easier for your team to be competitive because everybody is starting from scratch?
Speed: Certainly, it's a big disadvantage for us because the V8 is the future of Formula One. In the meantime, we're missing out of a year of development. It's at this point, not a performance advantage for us. Perhaps at the beginning of the year we could have a slight reliability advantage.
But really it's - by the end of the year and certainly even now the V8s are - they're adapting and they're evolving, and they're already breaking track records in testing that they had from the V10 era. So we're really crossing our fingers that they don't develop the V8s to where we're completely uncompetitive. But as it stands now, I think it's a pretty equal playing ground.
Q. This is a clarification there - this is Paul Kelly - the regulations this year for Formula One have changed. The engines have changed to a V8 configuration. But there is a provision in the rules where teams can use a restricted V10. And that's what Scuderia Toro Rosso is using through an air restrictor. It's a restricted V10. And Scott, if I'm not mistaken, STR is the only team that's using a V10 this year, correct?
Speed: Yes, I think so.
Q. Hi. Good morning, Scott. First of all, congratulations, like everybody said. This is Jorge Mondaca from racingone.com. I know you've been over there in Europe testing, but can you talk about your feelings about Formula One here in the United States?
Speed: My feelings are that I really hope that the presence of Formula One can increase. I mean it's - clearly for all, you know, really hard pressed motor racing or motor racing drivers. It's the pinnacle of motorsports for us. It's what everyone that races cars maybe hopes to have someday. It's - for an American it's so difficult to go to Europe because it's primarily based in Europe, that it sometimes gets - it's an impossibility.
And you do things, you start driving in NASCAR and Champ Car, and it's kind of a different community of people and it's a different type of racing. But Formula One being, you know, so technologically advanced and the cars being, you know, constantly improved upon and advanced, it's something that I think - it would fit so well for America, and we really need to get that presence amplified.
Q. And also as a follow up, what do you think that your presence is going to do? Do you think it will amplify the interest in Formula One here in the States?
Speed: You know, I'm really not sure. I hope that we have some good results during the year, and I hope we can generate some media around it. And I just keep my fingers that it does.
Q. Scott, Curt (Cavin) from the Indianapolis Star. Hey, I needed to get a sense - do you feel like you've arrived at this point? Or do you feel like because of where you sit on a team structure that you still have just so much more to prove, you know, so much more yet to climb?
Speed: You know, that's a very good question. I think that where I'm at and the position I'm at with Scuderia Toro Rosso is a very good opportunity to enter Formula One. It's always difficult for every driver when they get into Formula One for the first year because it's such a different form of racing than anything you get to try until you get there.
With, you know, 20 mechanics working on your car on a race weekend and a team of over 100 people developing parts, working on the technology side, the aerodynamic side, the mechanical side of the car, to be kind of the leader of a group and to get everyone to focus their attention and go in one direction is a really something you have to learn how to do.
And I think with the situation I have with Scuderia Toro Rosso, it being one of the smaller teams, and it's - I think it's going to be a good way to get my feet into Formula One and after the first year we really start to set our expectations higher.
Q. Don't you think that - some of that what you're talking about, becoming a leader of a group and your adaptability are almost more important measures of your success then even if you finish with a point or some points or right at the, you know, your finishes aren't maybe as important as how you develop as kind of a member of that team?
Speed: Yeah, no, you're absolutely correct. It is definitely more important because where you finish, as far as if you get a point or two points or how your finishes are is very much dictated on a big pictures of things. It's not just your own ability.
And as well certainly you have to take into consideration how your teammates are doing, because in Formula One the biggest measuring stick is how your teammate is doing, because of the vast differences between the teams it's really the closest way to compare driving.
So it's definitely a situation where you have to grow as a driver and the more you learn about everything then for sure the more opportunities you're going to have in the future.
Q. How much feedback have you gotten from your friends and your family in San Joaquin County and Manteca? You're kind of becoming a big name around here? How much feedback have you gotten?
Speed: You know, to be honest I've been travelling so much in the last months I haven't really seen actually what's been going on. Certainly a lot of my friends back home that I have are real excited about the opportunity. And I'm definitely keeping in touch with a lot of people that I used to know from school and it's, you know, everyone's been very supportive of it.
Q. Yeah Jack - this is Jack Rux. I'm from the Oakland Tribune, Scott. I think I may have talked to you a little bit once or twice before. But in any case, how is this off season with such a pivotal off season before you head into your first Formula One change as far as getting back home in the off season so to speak? Have you been pretty much living in Europe or in England or whatever the whole time, or what?
Speed: No, I got an opportunity to come back to the States in October and then again in December, but in both circumstances it was for training purposes. It's - I got to spend a week with my family during Christmas, which is really nice, to get my feet kind of back on the ground and get focused again.
And ever since then it's been really focusing and training as hard as I can. And I know that this is my opportunity in my life that I've been given and if I mess it up it's no one's fault by myself, so I'm trying to leave nothing to chance, I'm doing everything I can.
Q. OK. So as opposed to previous years when you finished up, would you say what kind of percentage of time spent at home would you say it was compared to previous - the last couple years before this?
Speed: Yeah, to be honest it's actually been very similar because I've been primarily based in Europe, I've spent on average three weeks at home a year. And this year was no different. It's more of a question of where I have to be in the world at the time because my travel schedule, with the testing and the media obligations in Europe is quite hectic.
And this year was even worse. So I'd say it's been actually similar, and mostly because I got off earlier last year from my season. But still on average it's about three weeks I get to spend with my family a year.
Q. Hi, Scott. I'm Nate Ryan from USA Today. Being the first American to do this in some 13 years or whatever, is there anyone you can seek advice from on what this transition is like for someone who has lived most of their life in the United States? I know Michael Andretti didn't have an enjoyable experience over there, but have you asked him maybe what he went through? Or have you leaned Eddie Cheever to see what he might have gone through when he was racing over there?
Speed: I've never actually met Michael or any or any of the Andretti's to be honest. I did - I have tested at the end of 2004 with Cheever with the IRL car to help him out on some oval stuff and he gave me a bit of advice, for sure. But really it's something that every driver has to go with - go through no matter what you're nationality is.
So driver's like David Coulthard and Tonio Liuzzi has gone through himself last year the first races, have really been a help. I mean the whole Red Bull - all the drivers and all the staff is really like one big family, and we all get along really well and we're able to really help each other out in that way.
Q. What kind of advice did you get from Eddie Cheever?
Speed: Oh, just push hard.
Q. Yeah. You mentioned having to be the leader of the team and when I talked to him once about F1 he kind of mentioned the same thing. How hard is that to be the team leader at, I guess, age 23?
Speed: Yeah, it's very difficult. It's, like I said earlier, a part of motor racing that you never get to experience until you get here. And I'm trying to learn my best at it. But it's really like a management role of a company. If you say like one of these really big companies, someone to manage everyone and to make sure that everyone's working in the right way.
It's really difficult. Yeah, I'm learning as much as I can. That's for sure.
Q. Hey, Scott. Congratulations on the opportunity this year. I wanted to ask you a question about your start as a driver. If I remember correctly from our conversation before, you got your start from karting? Is that the common entry point today for young drivers to get involved in racing?
Speed: Yeah, I think it's, for sure, the most common. I don't know - I don't think I know anyone personally that's either in Formula One or Champ Car that's got into motor racing any other way. I think that you start racing in (karts), and you develop quite a lot as a kid.
You know, it's like anything when you learn something when you're very young, I think you remember much longer and you normally retain the information better. But it's something that I personally was in since I was 11 years old, and I've pretty much spend my whole life on it ever since. So it certainly worked for me.
Q. If I remember correctly, I think you'd said your first race was like in a San Jose parking lot?
Speed: Actually, yes it was. I think it was the fairgrounds.
Q. So did this become like a family activity? Something you guys were doing on the weekends, travelling around the state?
Speed: Yes - no it's complete - my whole racing - my whole life very close to my family. My dad raced go-karts when I was a kid. I used to follow him around the racetrack since I was 4 years old. And my family's involved. My brother is a three-time national champion himself; he's a ridiculously decorated driver in America. And, you know, it's my dad and my mom and everyone follow the racing very closely.
Q. And the last question, so when you're back here in the States, I mean do most people know what you do? I mean do kids - are they familiar with what you do? I mean are there little kids in karts out there wanting to be like Scott Speed?
Speed: I think certainly within the karting community most people know about me and what I'm doing here in Formula One because I think everyone in karting watches Formula One. But as far as like the general public, it's certainly a lot less - there's a lot less people out there that know about myself or even Formula One, you know, opposed to Europe if I were to go into a mall in Salzburg (Austria) wearing some driver team gear there'd be kids running up all day.
So it's, you know, it's - there's room for improvement, let me put it that way. We certainly need to raise the awareness of Formula One in America.
Q. Yeah, this is Jim Pedley from the Kansas City Star. Scott, it's been over a dozen years since there has been an American driver in the sport. Why is that? Is it obstacles people are facing? Or less opportunity? Why has it taken 12 to 13 years for another American to get entry into the sport?
Speed: I'd say lack of opportunity. For myself personally, I didn't come from a family who had a lot of money and was able to pay for a season of racing and living in Europe. So without Red Bull's help, I wouldn't be here. And I think that this is the case for most American kids who grow in karting.
To make the move, not only financially, but emotionally and, you know, changing your whole life and move to Europe, it's a very, very big commitment, and I think a lot of kids just never get the opportunity. Actually, I know a lot of kids that are in kart racing or who've definitely got the talent but just don't have the opportunity to come to Europe to partake in the junior championships that you need to run in to reach Formula One.
Q. Hi, Scott. Dan Knutson, National Speed Sport News. In one way, the U.S. Grand Prix is just another race, but in another way it's, you know, your home race there's going to be tens of thousands of people in those grandstands cheering for you. What do you think you're going to feel when you pull out on those pits to start practice and then line up on that grid on that famous straightaway?
Speed: I don't know. It's, for sure, going to be an emotional experience. I'm looking so much forward to - I remember last year when I was doing the test driving duties at Indy, everyone there was so friendly and it was such a good feeling when you're based in Europe you never get to see your family.
To be able to come back and race and, you know, do what you've worked for all year and you get to share it with, you know, kind of your people. It's definitely a special experience.
Q. And on a different subject, you talked about your teammate. How well do you get on with Tonio Liuzzi? You want to beat him, but you also want to work together, of course, to make the car better.
Speed: We get along really well. Tonio is really, really laid back, and I think that everyone pretty much gets along with Tonio. If you can't get along with Tonio, then you got some problems.
Q. Hey, Scott. Do you feel that sometimes American drivers are - in this sport are held to a different standard then guys in Europe? I mean even after Jenson Button heard what all you accomplished in the other levels, he said, "You know, I hope he does a good job getting out of my way." So do you think right away that just being an American you're viewed as a different level than the other guys?
Speed: Yeah, certainly - how do you say, the reputation for American racing drivers in Europe is not the best. And I think we've done a big part to change that in the last years, but it's something that's for the time being is going to be in question.
I don't worry about it too much; I have the same job to do no matter what. And hopefully we can change the opinions of people with some time. Q. Who are some other guys that you've seen coming up through this program that might be able to follow you?
Speed: As far as through the Red Bull driver search program?
Q. Through the Red Bull driver search, yes. Kids that might be in there now that might join you up there in a couple years?
Speed: Yeah, certainly the most promising other American who's been a roommate of mine, (Colin Fleming). He grew up the same way as I did. He's currently doing the (Dallara) World Series stuff. And I don't think really as far as in the Red Bull program there's any other options - or any other opportunities.
Q. Yeah, while we're waiting for another question to come in - this is Paul Kelly, I want to ask you a quick question, what is the biggest change for you going from GP2 to F1? Is it physical, because we all know that just the ridiculous forces that an F1 car puts on the body, especially the braking, or is it mental, because you did mention about how you're really in - you're almost like in a management position now and you have to mold the team around you? So what's more of a daunting challenge, the physical or the mental?
Speed: You know, I'll tell you that's easy. In the preseason before I really was into it, it was trying to prepare physically, because like you said, the forces of the Formula One car are unlike anything, mostly the neck muscles. Your neck takes a beating, I mean my neck looks really out of proportion now; let me put it that way.
And then after driving it, and once you get yourself physically ready, which happens in time because it's something that changes as you drive the car and you get - your body adapts to it. And now the physical thing is not a problem, and now it becomes, for sure, trying to work at putting all the people in place and working at making the team be successful. And making the team all push in the same direction.
Q. Hey, Scott. Jorge from racingone again. I was wondering, disregarding the fact that this is a U.S. Grand Prix teleconference, which race are you most looking forward to? Is it getting out of the box here in Bahrain, or which is it?
Speed: It's, for sure, the first race in Bahrain. It's something that I've been dreaming of since I was 11 years old to race in Formula One. And I'm going to have my dad there with me. And it's, for sure, going to be a very emotional experience.
Q. Also as a follow-up, there's going to be a couple of races in Italy. Do you think that there will be a lot of Red Bull Italian fans there or do you think there's going to be some hostility there because Minardi has changed? Speed: That's something that I really don't know. I think that when everyone sees the image and what we're trying to do with Toro Rosso, it's hard not to like it. It's something that's really cool and it's its own style. I don't think you're going to - I don't think anyone's going to not like Toro Rosso.
Q. Yeah, Scott. As far as, you know, the dream of Formula One for American race - kids growing up to be racers or whatever, do you pretty much, you know, have to - you have to learn how to live in Europe, that's for sure. But you almost have to become, you know, a European lifestyle in living there and whatever, and what - if you're an American in Europe what do you do the few hours away from racing when you're not totally focused on it?
Speed: You definitely adapt to the European lifestyle, that's for sure. Because I remember when I first moved to Europe I went absolutely crazy because stores were not open on Sunday. I'd wake up Sunday morning. There'd be no milk in the fridge. I didn't have breakfast. So it's definitely something you adapt to. And at the end, I end up quite liking it. I have a pretty European lifestyle now.
I have a lot of good friends here and a lot of good emotional support. And in the time off you mostly spend it relaxing at home, not doing anything. Because when you live a life travelling all over the world, the last thing you want to do is travel for vacation.
Q. Hi, Scott. One of you strengths, it seems to me, is that you can get in a car and instantly be fast. Like in Turkey last year. No one had been at that track, and within about five laps you were at the top of the timesheets (in GP2). Do you think that's one of your main strengths as a driver? And what are your other main strengths, do you think?
Speed: No, absolutely. Ever since I've been in karting, my biggest strength has been adapted. Adapting to new circuits, adapting to new cars, to new techniques. It's something that I've always, I think, good at. Certainly, this is going to help a lot in Formula One. As Formula One is a sport that's always changing. There's always new regulations coming out, and the cars are different every single year.
And actually not only different every year, the cars are always changing throughout the year. That you're always getting, you know, a new front wing from the aerodynamic department that's got 2 percent more downforce or, you know, it's something that's always changing, I think this is going to be the biggest thing that helps me.
Q. Yeah, this is Paul Kelly again, while we wait to see if anybody else comes in the queue, I've got another question for you. If an American race fan came to you as the only American race driver and said: "I'm really interested and curious about this Formula One stuff, you're a driver. Other than the fact that's the pinnacle of the sport, what about it really, really jazzes you? I mean what, if I'm going to an F1 for the first time, what should I expect and what separates it and makes it so exciting and so much more unique from other forms of motorsports?"
Speed: Oh, it's easy. I tell you the first time that you get to see a Formula One car live on a racetrack, it takes your breath away. The performance of the car is unlike anything else. The way it stops, how fast it is going through the corners; it's absolutely amazing to watch.
And as a driver who's driven everything from Champ Car, IRL to GP2, the feeling of how fast this car is through the corners is unbelievable. It really is for the first, you know, six months of your driving the car, you have to tell yourself going into a high-speed corner that the car is going to take it, and you got to keep your foot down and let the car rail around the corner.
It's, you know, it's like having personal control of your own ridiculously sweet roller coaster. The amount of force that you're able to take, and it's just an awesome ride. I think this is the biggest thing that attracts people to Formula One. and I think as well as maybe part of the reason why Formula One is not that big in the States because we have one race a year, while in Europe there's races - someone could go to, you know, six races a year if they wanted to pretty easy.
Q. Hey, Scott. What would make you happy with your performance in Bahrain? What are your personal expectations for yourself there, just finishing or what?
Speed: Yeah, it's difficult to say. For sure, I'd like to do - to be competitive against my teammate. But really just to know where our team is going to end up at the end of the day is very difficult to know right now. Certainly after Bahrain, I'm going to have a much clearer picture of what we expect and what we can hope for. But until then we're really, you know, crossing our fingers that it's going to turn out well.
Q. All right, one last question for me Scott. Do you ever sort of stop and just think what a whirlwind you've gone through here? You've gone from, you know, you just say racing in a parking lot to the premier racing series in the world and you're only 23 years old. Do you ever sort of stop and say, "Wow, this is gone so quick?" Or are you actually so busy racing you haven't had time to think about it?
Speed: No, to be honest in the last off season spending time with my family and my girlfriend it's - all of us have been able to sit back and look at it and say, you know, I always wanted to go to Formula One, but I could have never sat down and thought this is how I would get there. The things that have happened in my life, for one, the disease I had. With all the things that have happened, it's a path that could have never predicted. And I'm so happy that it's worked out this way, and I know that there was a lot of luck on my side to get me here.
Q. Scott, for those who don't know, could you just give a real quick synopsis of the disease you had in 2003 and how it affected you?
Speed: Well, when I first moved to Europe in 2003 I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Now this is a disease of the large intestines, which basically creates ulcers on your intestines and for me it really the function of the intestines. So the nutrition you get out of your food is much less and because of the bleeding you lose a lot of blood and you lose bowel control. So I basically ran around for a year and a half wearing diapers, and bleeding and being anaemic.
But it's something that was a huge character builder, when you can walk around the racetrack and still perform wearing diapers and have self dignity, it's something you have to learn. And I think it's something that's, for sure, helped in my personality today. So I was also very lucky with this disease because I was really one month away of having to remove my colon, and if I did that then the racing career was over.
And I was very lucky to find a doctor in Vienna, who is, you know, into some cutting-edge treatment for the disease. And I'm very happy to say that I haven't had any symptoms or any problems with the disease for over a year.
Q. Hey, Scott. One last one for me and I know this probably not the question that you want to hear, because I'm sure you've heard it a million times, but is this year the last year that Formula One can get it right here in the United States? I mean, after what happened last year, do you think the fans will come back?
Speed: I hope they come back. I mean what happened in Indianapolis was very unfortunate and very unlucky. But I think at the end of the day I just - I guess I hope they come back. I don't know.
Q. And how about the reports that are coming out that it could possibly move to Las Vegas, you know, there's a lot of hesitation about the future of the U.S. Grand Prix? Is it important for the U.S. to keep a date no matter whether it's Indy or Las Vegas or anywhere?
Speed: For sure, it's important to keep the date. It'd be better if we had two.
Q. Scott, thanks so much for joining us. We all wish you the best of luck in Bahrain. And we are really looking forward to seeing you here in Indianapolis in June and July.
Speed: Yeah, well thank you guys for having me. It's really nice to talk to my home crowd, I tell you.
Q. Thanks again, Scott. Go get 'em.