Speed steals the show at Barcelona


American Scott Speed made a dramatic F1 debut at Barcelona, out-pacing the WilliamsF1 duo of Nick Heidfeld and Antonio Pizzonia.

In reality, the reigning Formula Renault Eurocup champion, who will be contesting the GP2 series this year, made his F1 debut on Wednesday when he completed 29 laps of the Spanish track. Today, he completed a further 39, posting a best time 0.552s quicker than Malaysia podium man Heidfeld, albeit in a 2004 car. That said, the American has never driven the Spanish track before, which makes his performance even more impressive.

"The car is definitely the most powerful car I've ever driven," said Speed. "This test all went smoothly with no dramas. My first impression was Wow! The braking power particularly impressed me. I really enjoyed myself and it was very productive, as the 68 laps I completed have qualified me for a Superlicense and I've now learnt a track that I will be racing on later in the year. I found all the data analysis side fascinating and felt fine at the end of the test, having trained real hard for this."

Also on duty for the Austrian team was Swiss star Neel Jani, who has previously tested for Sauber. The youngster completed 51 laps, posting a best time 1.9s off Speed's pace.

"Even though I have tested a Formula 1 car twice before, this was still an exciting two days for me," said Jani. "Especially the last morning when the track was wet and very slippery. I was amazed at how much grip and stability the cars still have in these conditions. I felt fit and capable of driving an F1 car."

Explaining the decision to run two F1 'virgins' rather than their regular race and test drivers, team boss Christian Horner said: "The technical programme centred on engine work, for future development of the Cosworth V10 and did not require our regular race drivers. ,Therefore this seemed like the ideal opportunity to introduce Neel and Scott to Formula 1, as part of the Red Bull Junior programme.

"Both drivers did a good job, making no mistakes," he added. "Given that Scott had never driven a Formula 1 car before, he put in a solid drive getting used to all the extra horsepower. Neel also had to contend with a damp track on the final morning, before running in the dry in the afternoon and he provided valuable feedback to our engineers."

Nick Heidfeld and Antonio Pizzonia were on duty as WilliamsF1 took to the Barcelona track for the first time since 17 February.

Both drivers spent the morning concentrating on set-ups, while in the afternoon Nick focussed on compound evaluations, carrying out a number of long runs on one particular compound, and Antonio carried out a number of simulated starts.

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Published: 24/03/2005
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