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Last Updated: Monday, 26 June 2006, 23:25 GMT 00:25 UK
Speed rejects F1 ambassador role
US Grand Prix, 2 July, 1800 BST

Scott Speed
Speed says he feels belongs in F1 after an uncertain start
Scott Speed says he does not feel any pressure to increase the popularity of Formula One in the US, where it has long struggled to find an audience.

Speed, who drives for Red Bull's junior team Toro Rosso, is the first American driver in F1 since Michael Andretti's disappointing 1993 campaign.

And F1 bosses are keen to tap into the potentially lucrative US market.

"It would be great if F1 becomes more popular in America, but personally for me it doesn't matter," Speed said.

"It is not something that puts added pressure on me. I am in F1 because I know that F1 is the pinnacle of motor sports.

"I know that it is the top level, and it has been my dream since I was a kid in karting."

It has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, because at the beginning you question, 'Is it something that I am good enough at?'

Scott Speed
F1 heads into this year's race at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday with its very future in America under threat.

The contract with Indy expires this year, and F1's standing in the US was badly hit by the fiasco at last year's race, when only six drivers competed following fears over the safety of the Michelin tyres used by seven of the teams.

Indy bosses remain unhappy about the affair, which led to fans showering the track with debris and shouting abuse before leaving early.

But track officials say they want to renew the contract if this year's race goes without a hitch, which Michelin is confident it will.

The US race returned to the calendar in 2000 after a long absence with F1 officials hoping the link with Indy - home of the famous Indy 500 - would lead to renewed interest.

American fans at Indianapolis last year show their displeasure after only six cars start the 2006 US Grand Prix
F1 has to rebuild its image in the US after last year's fiasco
But although the event has attracted large crowds, the American public at large remain uninterested in F1.

That is why it is hoped the presence of Speed at this year's race could make a difference.

"I think you will see an increase (in interest) with having Scott Speed around," said Michael Schumacher. "At the end of the day, if you have your own sportsman there competing at the top, it will obviously help a lot."

Driving for also-rans Toro Rosso, Speed is not going to be a contender for victory.

But as a long-term protégé of Red Bull, he is hopeful he has a long-term future in the sport.

"It has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, because at the beginning you question, 'Is it something that I am good enough at? Is it something that I will be able to do for a while?'" he said.

"But by the time we got to Imola and Nurburgring [for the fourth and fifth races], it was something I felt very confident with.

"And ever since then, I have been so much more relaxed and able to enjoy it because I know that I belong here and I know that I will be here for a long time."

It remains to be seen whether his home race has a similar future.



SEE ALSO
Button sees no end to poor form
26 Jun 06 |  Formula One
F1 teams keen to double up in US
24 Jun 06 |  Formula One
Ecclestone digs in over US deal
23 Jun 06 |  Formula One


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