Driver woes at Toro Rosso

Franz Tost, team principal at Toro Rosso, has denied allegations that he grabbed driver Scott Speed by the neck after an argument at the European Grand Prix.

Speed s Story
After the race at the Nurburgring, Speed claimed that he had been jerked back and forth after an argument broke out in the pitlane. “There were a couple of people who saw,” Speed explained. “He grabbed me right below the neck – on the fireproof t-shirt – and jerked me back and forth, let go, and then pushed me into the wall behind where the cars are.”

Tost s Version
Tost has said he grabbed Speed by the shoulder, not the neck, and said that the American driver had been very critical of the team after his pitstop during the race was delayed following torrential rain.

“When Scott came to the pit wall after going off the track, he complained about the very bad performance of the team because of the delay he suffered during the pit-stop,” Tost explained. “By contrast, I firstly asked him why he went off and then I tried to explain to him that he was the one who actually caused the chaos but he didn t listen to me.

“He carried on wanting to know why the team took so long to change his tyres when he came into the pits. It seemed like that was his only worry, while mine is, most of all, that the team are not put in doubt and their job not denigrated. There was a reason why the pit-stop lasted that long in his in-lap, Scott overtook our other car, that of Vitantonio Liuzzi, in the last sector. The GPS fit on our cars did not show that Scott had overtaken Tonio, cutting through the chicane just before entering the pitlane. The GPS maybe didn t have enough time to catch the move.

“The team there, who were expecting to see Tonio coming in, were left dumbfounded and were unprepared. Scott overtook his teammate by avoiding the chicane and I think he would have had to give back the position to avoid a penalty it he stayed in the race. That s why I got upset I was annoyed by his attitude; by the fact his only worry seemed to blame the team.

“I mean, he went off track he made a mistake. I make mistakes every day as well, that s not the problem, but I can t tolerate that he casts a cloud over the work of the team. That s why, when he turned around to leave, I followed him and grabbed him by the shoulder. ‘While I m talking to you, I said, ‘you can t leave like this, . I deny having grabbed him by the neck, while it s true that, once I had calmed down, I apologized to him.”

After the incident, Speed did test for the team at Mugello, however he has subsequently been dropped with Sebastien Vettel taking over his race-seat. Speed s manager has said that Speed has not been released from his contract and his future with the team will be announced after this weekend s Hungarian Grand Prix.

Berger fails to back Liuzzi
Gerhard Berger has declined to comment on the future of his second driver, Tonio Liuzzi. There are strong rumours in the F1 paddock that Champ Car driver Sebastien Bourdais is looking to take over Liuzzi s F1 seat in 2008.

Liuzzi is a protégé of Helmut Marko, as was ousted driver Scott Speed. Last month, Berger questioned Marko s judgement when he remarked that he had ‘never experienced a pair of drivers such as ours .

Berger would only comment on the fact he is happy that they managed to come to a deal with BMW Sauber over Sebastien Vettel. “First things first,” he said. “In the past ten days we have been trying very hard to secure Vettel. We absolutely wanted him.”