Interview: Speed hits back

Scott Speed is resigned to the idea that last weekend's European Grand Prix could be his final race for Scuderia Toro Rosso. In fact, he says, no amount of money would get him to work with his current team bosses in the future

Interview: Speed hits back

Speed was among several drivers who ended their races in the Nurburgring gravel trap last Sunday, but for the American, the consequences were to be rather more far reaching than for the others.

After he returned to the pits, the American was involved in an altercation with Scuderia Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost. The American said nothing to the media at the time, but nevertheless the story subsequently emerged from other sources.

However, Tost played down the incident today in an interview with Blick newspaper, saying that he had merely touched Speed on the shoulder.

In response, Speed has now decided to break his silence and tell his side of the story. While on the way to a Mugello test, he spoke to Adam Cooper about what happened in Germany - and how it might impact on his future.

"Initially I didn't want to come out in the press and talk about this, because after the race Franz spent 15 minutes apologising for his behaviour, because it was clear to everyone that he was way out of line," Speed said this afternoon.

"But after coming out and denying this stuff, it's just another very dishonest thing that Franz or [team co-owner] Gerhard [Berger] have said in the media to damage me and [teammate] Tonio Liuzzi. And at this point, I've had enough.

"And I know that it's going to hurt Red Bull, and that's definitely not my intention, because Dietrich Mateschitz and Red Bull have been a huge support to me. They're the reasons I have achieved everything I have in motor racing.

"But Franz Tost in particular is out of control. The fact of the matter is when we left the pit wall, Franz was furious that I'd crashed in Turn 1, regardless of the fact that nearly every single driver behind [Jenson] Button did the exact same thing, including Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

"He (Tost) was furious that I crashed. When I asked him about the pitstop, he said 'it doesn't matter because you crashed', and he didn't want to hear any criticisms about what the team did. He was trying to blame me about the pitstop.

"After that I just turned away and walked towards the garage, and I guess he must have caught up behind me. When he reached me, he hit me in the middle of the back with a closed fist. Everyone in the team saw it.

"As I was leaving the garage he then followed me behind the partition, where none of the mechanics could see. He grabbed me from the front of my shirt, jerked me around, ripping a little bit my fire suit, and pushed me against the wall.

"After that my only response was to back up in the middle of the garage and ask him if he wanted to hit me in front of everyone else."

Q: So did anybody see what happened when he grabbed you?

Speed: "There were a couple of people who saw. He grabbed me right below the neck, on my fireproof t-shirt, and jerked me back and forth, let go, and then pushed me into the wall behind where the cars are. There were two team people there, and another person, who saw it."

Q: What happened next - is it true that you went to Gerhard and said something?

Speed: "Immediately after that situation, as you can imagine I was furious. I walked to the pit wall and wanted to inform everyone that this happened. So I looked at my team manager, the technical director, and Gerhard Berger, and told them that if my team chief ever touches me again, I'm going to knock him out.

"They said 'OK, let's try to calm this whole situation down'. I said fine, and I went back in my room [in the motorhome] and I stayed there until the end of the race. At which point, Gerhard and Franz both came back. Franz was calmed down and spent 15 minutes apologising for his behaviour."

Q: And that was the end of it, as far as you were concerned?

Speed: "Yeah. At that point I as well had a talk with Gerhard, and it was very clear that they have a different expectation of what they think is possible to do in the cars, and they are going to continue to point the finger at us drivers until they get the change that they want."

Q: And you haven't talked to them since Sunday?

Speed: "No, I haven't talked to anyone since Sunday."

Q: What are your thoughts about what happened in the race?

Speed: "In this situation, if you look at the facts of the race, the only mistake that was done was by the team in the pitstop. Because Scott and Tonio Liuzzi came from 18th and 19th to coming into the pits in sixth and seventh to change tyres.

"We came into the pitstop, and the mix-up was that I passed Tonio in the last sector, and it took the team one minute and five seconds of pitstop time to figure out how to change the tyres on the car. The same exact thing happened to Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen, because Kimi missed the pit entry, and they were able to do a pit stop in 30 seconds.

"So the team made a huge mistake, and no one wants to take the blame for that. The fact of the matter is when I came around into Turn 1, there was no way I was going to stay on the track. I braked 300 metres before the corner, and I did not start slowing down until I hit the gravel.

"I was aquaplaning all the way down into the corner like nearly every single driver after Jenson. I can't say I made a mistake, because if I had to do the whole thing again, there was no possible way to realise that was going to happen.

"It's not just like going off the track a bit, it was like being in a place that was completely unsafe to drive. And after that incident they put the safety car out, and no other car went into Turn 1 at speed."

Q: Are you worried about your future with the team?

Speed: "To be honest, the only thing I'm worried about is my relationship with Red Bull, because obviously Franz Tost and Gerhard Berger have been pushing the same dishonesty to the media, and I'm worried that might have ruined my relationship with Red Bull.

"Because Red Bull has been amazing to me, and I think we fit together really good, and it's a shame to let these two people ruin the whole thing.

"As far as my future in F1 is concerned, you couldn't pay me enough money to race for those two people again. If it was with a different team, that would be great, but I would also like to do something else with Red Bull, even if it was outside F1. Like I said, my relationship with Red Bull has been fantastic."

Q: But do you anticipate that there might be a lot of stuff going on in the next week, and you'll end up not driving in Hungary?

Speed: "I think with these two, you never know. Everything that's ever happened in the press and the media has always been a surprise, because they do everything behind everyone else's back."

Q: And you're happy that all of this is on record?

Speed: "It's the truth, and at the end of the day, I think it's time it came out."

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Series Formula 1
Author Adam Cooper
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