MIAMI – Starting 10th on the grid for the Miami ePrix wasn’t what Scott Speed had in mind for his FIA Formula E Championship debut, especially considering his Andretti Autosport teammate Jean-Eric Vergne scored his second pole in three starts since joining the team in Uruguay.
However, few expected the performance the American delivered in the 39-lap race, in what was his first major open-wheel race appearance since his Formula 1 career ended in mid-2007.
Speed stayed in the top-10 in the early stages of the race and then moved forward after the round of pit stops, which is when his race came alive.
He emerged in the top five, mirroring the strategy by eventual race winner Nicolas Prost by pitting on Lap 20.
Once Speed passed Vergne for fourth place at Turn 5 on Lap 24, the mission to win the race truly began in earnest.
“In qualifying we got held up on both of our flying laps,” Speed said in the post-race press conference. “We had much more speed than 10th place. So we knew we’d be coming forward. I started out on his strategy, which was to go one lap longer than everybody and it worked quite well.”
But as Speed closed on the podium runners, and eventually got past Daniel Abt as the German was forced to save energy, Speed ran into a different issue rather than conserving energy himself.
“The problem we ended up having at the end was not battery – I had plenty of energy left – but we kept overheating,” Speed said. “In any case, (Prost) played his strategy very good too.
“For the last two laps we were both at 100 percent power and I don’t think anyone had that same power. For both of us, going into corners at full speed when you don’t do that the whole race, was quite tricky. We had a lot of close calls, but it made the racing really nice.”
Speed came up just short of Prost at the finish – just 0.433 of a second back – but had thoroughly impressed in his series debut.
He reiterated what he said earlier this weekend that while he isn’t yet confirmed to any more Formula E races, he’ll happily go wherever needed for Andretti Autosport opportunities.
He also hailed team principal Michael Andretti, who served as his race strategist on his No. 28 chassis.
“Having a guy like Michael Andretti on the radio calling the race, someone with experience, who could talk to me like that, was fantastic,” Speed said. “It’s the first time he’s done that and we’ll have him do that some more. With what we had, we really maximized our possibilities.”
Speed’s biggest adjustment, more than driving or conserving energy, was actually getting used to the noise reduction of the all-electric Spark-Renault SRT_01 E chassis.
“The biggest difference is engine noise – there is none!” Speed said. “Really you hear things you never hear before. This being my first race, I at the start of the race heard this big music and big sound, and I heard it like it was in my headphones.
“It’s unbelievable how much you can hear. You hear the crowd screaming at the start of the race. There’s a bunch of tire noise, tire squealing; when people crash, you hear it behind you, you can hear it very clearly. By far the biggest difference is the audio.”
Speed made plenty of noise in his own way this afternoon in what was one of his best career drives.
As for Vergne, the polesitter who led the first 18 laps, his race was compromised with similar overheating issues in the final portion of the race. The Frenchman retired with two laps to go, and ended an unrepresentative 18th.