Exclusive interview with Toro Rossos Gerhard Berger 03 Aug 2007
Scott Speeds confirmation at Toro Rosso for 2007 came late and his exit was premature. In between, it was a rocky ride that eventually came to a grinding halt amid the torrents of the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring.
Now, following the long-term signing of Sebastian Vettel as Speed's replacement, Toro Rossos co-owner Gerhard Berger wants stability and has his sights firmly set on the Italian squads future...
Q: From this weekend on we will see Sebastian Vettel in the second Toro Rosso. What made you change your mind? You had said it would not make sense to put him in a race cockpit without any test mileage
Gerhard Berger: Sebastian has driven since he was 12 years-old. He has been a Red Bull youngster for many years. Last year he started to get experience in Formula One with BMW Sauber and that culminated at this years Indianapolis Grand Prix, where he scored one point - the youngest driver ever to do so. I think this is proof enough - at least it convinced me to offer him the cockpit. He started out as a member of the Red Bull family and is once again a member of the Red Bull family - doesnt that sound like a happy ending?
Q: What do you expect from Sebastian, considering that what you expected from Scott Speed was difficult to deliver?
GB: We will not put any pressure on Sebastian - he is with us long term, so we want him to develop over the next one and a half years to become a top driver. But here at his first race with us he just has to drive around as good as he can to familiarise himself with the team and the car. The key message is, 'no pressure at all'.
Q: The European Grand Prix was clearly a turning point in Speeds career. What did you think about that weekend and the performance of your driver?
GB: I dont want to spend one second more on Speed. This is history. He is not here anymore and now I want to look forward. We are happy to have Sebastian here and for now, we want the team to settle down. We have always had a very good atmosphere within the team - the mechanics, the management - and we want to get back there with everything running smoothly again. Okay, we have had some difficult circumstances, and technically we would like to be better than we are at the moment. There are many areas which we would like to improve, but overall we are very happy. Now we have Sebastian and Tonio and everything is fine.
Q: Was the impetus to replace Scott just down to what had happened at Nurburgring or was it the result of an ongoing feeling of dissatisfaction?
GB: The decision had nothing to do with what had happened at Nurburgring. It was a decision that had already been made before. We had not been happy with the performance and attitude of Scott for a long time, and the Nurburgring race was the last straw and led to his dismissal.
Q: Speed said that he and Vitantonio Liuzzi were both under pressure and had been criticised for a number of things. Is Liuzzi safe for this season? Has he made improvements?
GB: I always heard Scott speak about pressure, but we are here in Formula One - everybody has pressure. It is a highly competitive environment and at the end of the day you deliver or you dont. Its not comfortable - I totally agree! Sure Tonio also has pressure to deliver at the moment, but he still has the chance to deliver. I hope for him that he works well together with Sebastian and will try to help the team do better. At the end of the day, when the Sunday comes and the driver is sitting in the car, he has to do the job.
Q: What about Sebastien Bourdais? Should we expect to hear news about him soon?
GB: No, not at this stage. At the moment we are concentrating on Sebastian and if there is any other news we will tell.
Q: The driver side is one thing, but what about the team. Toro Rosso has scored no points so far, but if you had, could it be used in the this seasons ongoing discussion about customer cars?
GB: Spyker thinks that we and Suzuki (Aguri Suzuki - Super Aguri team principal) are outside the regulations, and we think we are in. If two sides cannot come up with a solution then a third party has to come in to try and solve the case. It is that simple. I guess we won't see a final decision before the end of the year. As for the points issue, should we get some, they would be valid. The issue, however, is to get points first and that I dont see as being so easy. Points are hard to get these days. I will only start to worry when we have something to show on our balance sheet.
Q: Rumours have sprung up that you plan to run the team together with Jean Todt's son Nicolas in 2008...
GB: There is nothing to it at all. I know Jean Todt very well from my time with Ferrari - I have seen Nicolas grow up - but thats about it. In fact Nicolas called me, asking where all these rumours come from. The emphasis in on rumours - and I do not comment on rumours.
Q: How do you see the future of the team?
GB: I will do Toro Rosso with Red Bull, or not at all. I have no new partners up my sleeves nor am I looking for some. Red Bull is the backbone of the team and Red Bull is renowned for getting more excited the harder the challenge looks. Sure the teams resources are limited - like with all the other small teams. This sometimes leads to some daydreaming, but then reality brings you down to earth again. On the other hand, even Frank Williams needed to wait 10 years for his first victory. We are only in our second year, so there is still a great deal of time left to make improvements.