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Speed: The situation worsens

NEWS STORY
24/07/2007

It looks as though the row between Toro Rosso and its American driver Scott Speed is coming to a climax, with the driver claiming that team boss Franz Tost is "out of control".

The youngster, a product of the Red Bull Driver Search, has not had the easiest of times since coming into F1, with many feeling that Toro Rosso, and to a certain extent, certainly prior to 2007, Red Bull, treating drivers as components rather than helping to shape their careers. Even before the 2007 season got underway, Gerhard Berger and Tost were questioning the commitment of their drivers, leaving the official confirmation of Speed's seat until the last possible moment.

Subsequently, the team made no secret of its courtship of Sebastien Bourdais, and more recently Sebastian Vettel, another product of the Red Bull pick 'n' Mix ensemble.

On Saturday, Berger revealed that he has an option until the end of this month to sign Bourdais for 2008, while on Sunday, following the early elimination of both team drivers, Tost is alleged to have assaulted Speed in the team garage.

Since then, with claims in some sections of the media that Speed has already been dropped, Tost has told the German media that there was no assault, a move that appears to have been the final straw for the American.

In an interview with the SpeedTV website, Speed sheds further light on Sunday's encounter, whilst claiming that he doesn't want to race for Berger and Tost again.

Asked about the 'assault, Speed says: "The fact of the matter is when we left the pit wall, Franz was furious that I'd crashed in Turn One, regardless of the fact that nearly every single driver behind Button did the exact same thing, including Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

"He was furious that I crashed. When I asked him about the pit stop 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 pit stop.

"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 my firesuit a little bit, 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."

Asked if there were witnesses, Speed says: "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."

"Immediately after that situation, as you can imagine, I was furious," the American continues. "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 apologizing for his behaviour."

Speed is adamant that he didn't want to make political mileage out of the situation, but was spurred into going public when Tost denied his original claim.

"Initially I didn't want to come out in the press and talk about this, because after the race Franz spent 15 minutes apologizing for his behaviour, because it was clear to everyone that he was way out of line. But after coming out and denying this stuff, it's just another very dishonest thing that Franz or Gerhard have said in the media to damage me and Tonio.

"At this point, I've had enough," he continues. "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."

Referring to what happened in the race, the American says: "If you look at the facts of the race, the only mistake that was done was by the team in the pit stop. 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 pit stop, and the mix-up was that I passed Tonio in the last sector, and it took the team one minute and five seconds of pit stop 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.

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