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Exclusive interview - STR's Gerhard Berger 28 Jun 2006

Gerhard Berger (AUT) Scuderia Toro Rosso Team Part Owner.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Montreal, Canada, 23 June 2006

Although Scuderia Toro Rosso (STR) have failed to score a point so far this season, co-owner and team principal Gerhard Berger must be satisfied when he reflects on his squad’s overall performance. Toro Rosso, formerly Minardi, used to be regulars at the very back of the grid alongside Jordan (now Midland), but this season they have consistently outperformed their old rivals. And, despite the team’s dramatic progress, it seems Berger refuses to rest on his laurels just yet…

Q: Your return to Formula One racing as part owner of Toro Rosso came as quite a surprise. Was it homesickness that brought you back to the paddock or just a good business opportunity?
Gerhard Berger:
Both. When I quit at BMW it was because I felt burned out. Twenty years in Formula One, 20 years living in hotel rooms and my daughters forgetting what their dad looks like - I needed a break. And I might have stayed away from Formula One forever had not Didi Mateschitz (Dietrich Mateschitz, Red Bull founder) made me an offer I could not refuse: to become his partner in STR. I was the first sportsman Red Bull had ever sponsored and Didi became a good friend over the years so it was clear that I would join him with his second Formula One team. And it’s good to be back. Twenty years makes you feel at home.

Q: How much are you involved in the day-to-day running of the team?
At the moment more than I had planned. But the team is in a crucial phase of restructuring so I want to give them all my support and my experience. We have gathered a fantastic crew over the past months. When you think that only six months ago it was Minardi you hardly find a trace of that past. The team has made an exceptional leap forward.

Q: Does the technology transfer between Red Bull Racing and STR work? What about the much talked of ‘Newey effect’?
To have the Newey effect working we have to wait until next year. Adrian is in the middle of building up his own program at Red Bull and it is definitely too early to have any benefits at STR as we have completely different cars and drivers. But 2007 should be the year when synergies between the two teams should become effective.

Q: You have been quoted in the media as saying that a Renault engine deal for Red Bull Racing is 80 percent done. Any update on the state of affairs?
I never said that. That was a typical newspaper hoax. All I said is that negotiations are being held and that in the key issues there is a basic understanding between both parties and that I hope that a deal can be worked out soon to secure a sound planning for the future.

Q: Would a deal between Red Bull Racing and Renault automatically mean that STR would take over Red Bull Racing’s Ferrari engine contract?
No. It is one of the options that we have, but we are naturally looking into others. There will be a decision within the next couple of weeks.

Q: What about the periodic rumours that Volkswagen could enter Formula One racing as engine suppliers to the Red Bull Racing team? The two companies cooperate very successfully in other series and Volkswagen’s CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder is a self-confessed Formula One aficionado….
Sure, every team looks to team up with a manufacturer. But we never got a real sign that they would be seriously looking to come into Formula One. I know Bernd very well, he has brought me to BMW, but this is a personal relationship and I don’t necessarily mix it with business.

Q: ‘Junior team’ seems to be a magic phrase in the paddock ever since Red Bull Racing launched STR. What are the benefits of being a ‘junior team’?
Being the junior team sounds very nice, but all we want is to bring the team forward and for sure we won’t stay a junior team forever. Our goal clearly is that we want to stay ahead - at least sometimes. The dreams about all those rumoured junior teams in the making will soon be over as there will only be 12 teams on the grid in 2008. If you want you have two weak candidates - one of them is Honda, the other probably Midland - but that’s it, so the bubble will burst sooner or later. Being labelled Red Bull’s junior team might not be the right branding for us, but what we clearly would like to do is to use the junior drivers of Red Bull Racing as long as it makes sense and as long as they can deliver.

Q: The driver ‘merry-go-round’ started very early this year. Where are driver discussions up to at STR? Are you planning to stick with what you’ve got?
I would like to stay with the drivers we have. Fact is that the driver carousel affects the top teams more, as everything revolves around the question what Michael (Schumacher) will do. It does not affect us. But what will really happen, the next weeks will show. I am against all those saying that Formula One needs more American, Russian or Chinese drivers. I simply want the best, no matter if they are white, black or yellow.