Exclusive interview - Toro Rossos Gerhard Berger 29 Aug 2007
As Red Bulls junior team, Toro Rosso set out to give up and coming young talent a foothold in Formula One racing. The Italian squads decision to sign 20-year-old Sebastian Vettel as a race driver in July exemplified this ethos.
It came as something of a surprise then when it was announced a month later that 28-year-old Sebastien Bourdais would partner Vettel for 2008. Toro Rosso co-owner Gerhard Berger explains why Bourdais, a three-time Champ Car champion, is the perfect choice
Q: Why did you pick Sebastien Bourdais as a race driver for 2008 - and when was the decision made?
Gerhard Berger: Quite some time ago. I have followed his career for years. He did a good job in other series - he is a three-time champion! We gave him rides and have been impressed. Summing-up all this, we decided to give him a chance.
Q: With more and more rookie drivers landing race seats, is 28 year-old Sebastien too old?
GB: True, he is in the middle of his career, but he has a great deal of experience. That is why we thought it would be a good fit to team him up with Sebastian Vettel. We believe that both drivers and the team will benefit from the pairing.
Q: What about Sebastien and his US racing heritage? Formula One is distinctly different
GB: Thats why we only assessed him by the tests he did for us. And, as I said before, they were good. What we also wanted was a championship-winning mentality.
Q: What about Vitantonio Liuzzi?
GB: At this stage we are happy with Tonio and his performance, but for next season we want to move on to another level.
Q: Do you think that Sebastien has more potential than Tonio?
GB: I believe that people who are able to win championships have something special. And Sebastien has won three in consecutive years and proved that he is capable of putting in consistently top performances. That was a strong plus on Sebastiens side. Tonio is a nice guy, but the atmosphere in the team has been quite strange this year - the team were not happy with the drivers and visa versa. So we wanted a change.
Q: Can the driver really make a difference at a team like Toro Rosso?
GB: If the technical package is not good, no. But we see in the midfield there is a compact group of almost equal cars and in such a case the driver does make a difference. As we want to close the gap to the midfield, our decision to sign Sebastien seems logical.
Q: Bourdais is used to racing without traction control. Did this influence your decision, given that it will out-lawed in Formula One racing next season?
GB: Yes, sure. Its very different to drive and if somebody is already used to that its a big plus.
Q: What about Ralf Schumacher? Obviously, there have been talks
GB: Ralf came to us but in the discussion it became very clear that his priority was Toyota, so we did not proceed.
Q: What about Sebastian Vettel? Are you still on cloud nine with him?
GB: He put in a consistently good race. The boy shows good potential. Now we have to give him the time to let him develop.
Q: A few weeks ago you spoke about there being a difficult culture in the team. Has that changed now?
GB: Yes, since Sebastian is here it has changed. We need a driver who is happy with what he gets here. We are not Ferrari or McLaren - we are Toro Rosso and constant complaining does not help.
Q: Is Red Bull still fully behind the team?
GB: Yes, because we give Red Bull an extra platform.