A promising start to the weekend and a lightning getaway in the race ultimately came to nought for Scott Speed in the Spanish Grand Prix, though the American is confident Scuderia Toro Rosso is finally now on-track in 2007.

A late debut for the team's Ferrari-powered STR2 afforded precious little pre-season testing opportunities, which has left the squad fighting on the back foot from the word go. Speed has yet to break beyond the first knock-out session in qualifying for the first four grands prix, and has but a sole finish to his name courtesy of a distant 14th place in Malaysia.

"The developments we tried at the test in the week leading up to the race, especially those on the aero front, are a step in the right direction," the 24-year-old asserted. "We still have a long way to go to make up for lost time this winter, though.

"We are doing better and the team is doing a good job and making improvements, but there were growing pains in Barcelona with problems on my front wing endplate and my seat. However, these are little things that are easy to fix."

Indeed, the Californian was an encouraging tenth-quickest in Friday practice in Spain, only for a transmission failure - possibly due to an overly-aggressive gearbox strategy - to end his qualifying effort on Saturday before it had even begun and leave him languishing right at the back of the grid.

"What happened was very disappointing," Speed acknowledged, "because when you look at Tonio (Liuzzi)'s pace and the lap time he did to get into Q2, I think our performance level was better than I had expected.

"The transmission problem meant I never even posted a time, though. On my out lap, as I tried to change gear, I got a neutral and the engine died. Then as I started my flying lap it happened again and I almost went off the track. It got worse, and that was that."

A demon start when the lights went out, however, saw the Formula 1 sophomore in 14th position as the field came around to complete the opening lap of the race, but as early as lap nine Speed detected something badly awry with his car. Just one lap later, the left rear tyre blew on the front straight, and his weekend came to a premature conclusion.

"It was an amazing start," he underlined, "and an amazing first lap. Things just went right for me. I was in the right place at the right time; it wasn't as if I did anything particularly spectacular. I was aggressive in turn one, but other than that I just made the right decisions whether to be on the inside or the outside and it really paid off.

"I wasn't as quick as Takuma Sato in front of me, but my car wasn't bad. A lap-and-a-half before it happened, I started losing rear grip. I think it is the same thing that happened to me in Australia.

"We certainly seemed to be more competitive over the weekend, though. We have definitely made a step forward, and there is more stuff in the pipeline. I think when all those elements are working together we are going to see a better Toro Rosso."

 

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