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Old 01-31-2006, 08:55 PM
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Great (Scott) Speed column on Speed

CORTES: Observing the (Scott) Speed Limit
Written by: Cassio Cortes Irvine, Calif. – 1/31/2006

Scenario: two less-than-energetic guys in their bachelor pad, mildly hung over, prostrated on the sofa gazing at the big-screen TV.

“So, this Scott Speed guy,” my roommate began, shifting his weight on the couch already covered with potato chip crumbs. “Is he any good?”

“I’d say so, yeah,” I offered back, trying to cut short a conversation that I knew would extend way beyond the commercial break, for the roommate, the biggest sports fan this writer knows, nonetheless possesses precious little knowledge of the complex inner workings inherent to the FIA Formula 1 World Championship.

“His previous results indicate that he’s the real deal,” I concluded as the wet BTCC race at Silverstone resumed on SPEED Channel.

“Ahh,” my roommate mused, before proceeding to eat up the crumbles from the once-white couch, “so he’s gonna win a bunch of races this year, right?”

Oh, no. Here we go.

“No, he won’t.” (And please, please shut up now).

“Oh yeah, because he’s a rookie, right?”

“Yeah, yeah. That too.”

“Next year then?”

“Hmm... Probably not, either.”

(Puzzled expression) “Really? I remember you saying he could be the first American World Champion in, like, 60 years or something.”

“Twenty-eight years. I still think he could.”

“But you’re saying he’s not going to win a race in two years!”

“No, I’m saying in he’s not going to win a race in at least two years.”

(Upset tone) “But how the hell’s he gonna show that he’s good then?”

Now there was no turning back.

“Well, there will be several ways. For one, he’ll have to beat Midland and Super Aguri every time out.”

“Super what?”

“Aguri. As in Aguri Suzuki, former F1 driver. He’s Japanese. And, to be accurate, it’s technically Em-Eff-One, not Midland.”

“That’s it? Beat two teams and he’s a hero?”

“No; more importantly, he’ll have to be consistently faster than Vitantonio Liuzzi, week in and week out.”

“Right... OK, let’s say he beats the %$*** out of these Mo-Fo-One and Akira teams and this Lattrini guy this year. Then what?”

“I suppose the logical step up, if he does prove himself, would be to maybe replace a retiring David Coulthard at Red Bull Racing in 2007, or most likely 2008.”

“So you’re saying he’ll get to win in ’08?”

“Hmm...Maybe. Hard to tell. Red Bull hopes to be winning by then, but I’m not betting any money on that, Adrian Newey’s wizardry notwithstanding. And still, that’s a best-case scenario. It all depends on the new F1 regulations for ’08.”

“Dammit, so why should I bother to watch him anyway? You know, F1 ain’t taking off in this country until someone starts winning some races!”

“I think you’re wrong. Besides, you don’t necessarily need to win races in F1 to show you’re the real deal—ever heard of a guy named Jenson Button?” He shook his head. “Well, he’s this British guy that hasn’t won a race in over 100 starts but has an $80 million contract in his pocket. I, for one, think it will be fascinating to see Speed and Liuzzi battling Aguri and Midland, maybe even bothering Red Bull, Williams and BMW every now and then. For the first time in ages, the fight at back of the grid will be just as interesting as the one in the front. Perhaps more.”

My roommate sighed. The input of new information had been too much, and I was struggling to keep him interested. Maybe Bernie Ecclestone was right, and the average Americans sports fan just isn’t trained to stay focused very long.

“Listen,” I tried to conclude, already resigned to missing out on the BTCC action. “Formula 1’s complexity is one of the things that make it so incredible. Make the effort to understand it, and I can assure you won’t regret it.”

But my roommate’s attention had already shifted elsewhere – to an antifreeze commercial, to be specific.

“Man, this Danica chick really is hot.”

Cassio Cortes is an associate editor of and staff writer for RACER magazine.
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