Exclusive - Austrian speaks frankly on cars, drivers, sponsors
As media speculation over Toro Rossos and Super Aguris 2007 machines grows increasingly heated, Toro Rosso co-owner Gerhard Berger is staying resolutely cool. Amid press suggestions that both teams may run what amount to customer cars this season, our exclusive interview reveals why Berger believes Toro Rosso have nothing to worry about
Q: You were recently quoted as being unfazed by the customer car row. When will you start getting worried?
Gerhard Berger: They have put it down wrong, because you have to be worried about everything in Formula One. Formula One is highly competitive and you can never afford not to be worried about anything. What I meant is I am not worried because there is nothing we can do. We checked very carefully on the legal side, on the FIA side. We have checked very carefully the wording of the Concorde Agreement, and it shows very clearly to us that what we are doing is absolutely correct - that we are inside the regulations. We went on a route that even if we wanted we could not go back. It is done.
Q: Williams and Spyker are saying that customer cars - what many are suggesting the forthcoming STR2 might be - are illegal for 2007. However, you say you are within the rules. So what now?
GB: If somebody from the other teams has that impression, thats the nature of competition. But it is not up to them to judge whether what we are doing is right or wrong. I respect their comments, but in our view we are a hundred percent fine. It is basically Williams and Spyker who are worried and I know the reason for that - they fear our competitiveness.
Q: There have even been suggestions in the media that Frank Williams and Spyker team principal Colin Kolles could be prepared to take the issue to court
GB: If they want to do so, fine, then we will fight it out. But again, we checked our situation very carefully, and we dont see the slightest hint that we are not fulfilling the wording of the regulations.
Q: Toro Rosso are the only team not to have announced their driver line-up. Why?
GB: We are still working on our driver side. So far it was not the right time to make any announcement as we are in final discussions with our drivers. The moment we are ready, we will make it public.
Q: How big is the likelihood that it will be the same as last year?
GB: I think our two 06 drivers are in pole position. Most likely we are going this route, but it is not done yet.
Q: Who else could be an option? Sebastien Bourdais was rumoured for 2008.
GB: There are options.
Q: Is it a question of money?
GB: Money is not an issue. We are trying to get the best guys in our cars. We are looking for performance. Money is more than welcomed, but on the other side we are totally performance orientated and it is the performance that will get a driver a cockpit and not a hand waving a cheque. If our main criteria were money, we would have done this already.
Q: Last year you hinted that Toro Rosso were looking for sponsors. Are there any new developments to report?
GB: We are working on it. There are certain leads, but we have not finalized anything yet. But I am sure sooner or later we will have the right sponsor on the team. At the moment Red Bull is the main financier.
Q: Have you ever regretted taking on co-ownership of the team?
GB: Not at all. I like it very much, even though there is a long way to go. Obviously for the last 20 years I spent my time with top teams, always being used to have access to resources and possibilities - so this is a very different road. It is very much back to racing, trying to survive and to move forward. Its a challenge.
Q: And if you are within the regulations, where do you see Toro Rosso this season?
GB: It is not if we are within the regulations - we are within the regulations! We are not underestimating Super Aguri and Spyker. To be ahead of them was a good result last season, and to keep them behind us again will be hard work. In front of us was Williams - and this is the reason why all this discussion started. If Frank (Williams) were more in front he would not care for a moment. But naturally our aim will be to close the gap to Williams.