Exclusive interview - Toro Rossos Gerhard Berger 21 Mar 2008
Finding out via the media that your co-owner has put his slice of the team up for sale is not common business practice, so Gerhard Berger must have been surprised to learn of Dietrich Mateschitzs decision to seek a suitable buyer for his half of Toro Rosso.
With customer cars ruled out from 2010, for Mateschitz, focusing exclusively on Red Bull Racing makes perfect sense. But what now for Toro Rosso - and for Berger?
Q: Dietrich Mateschitz has put the team on the market. What is you part in that story: stay in or sell?
Gerhard Berger: First of all I really want to finish what I have started: to pick up a team at the very end of the grid and make it a midfield team. I think we have been very successful in that so far. At the moment it is difficult to say if there is still a realistic chance to proceed with that goal - in terms of recourses and money - but I trust Didi (Mateschitz) when he said that he would only walk away if he managed to give the team a sound future. As I know him, you usually can rely on his word.
Q: So whats the timetable for the team until 2010?
GB: This year, meaning 2008, nothing will happen - and then we will see. But I am sure it will be in a way that the team will not be hurt. For me personally it will be a pity not to be with Red Bull as my ties with them go back for quite some time, but then I totally can understand: to run two teams in an expensive environment is very difficult - and even big car manufacturers have become wary of that fact. In the meantime I want to push the team as much further as possible.
Q: Assuming Dietrich Mateschitz sticks to his decision, how is the sale likely to proceed? He brings a possible buyer to the table and you are left to sink or swim?
GB: We have a 50-50 percent partnership, so whatever one intends to do he has to sit down with the other to clear the situation. And once again: my dream partner is Red Bull, but I do understand Didis considerations.
Q: Future ownership details aside, where will the team be based? At the moment it is the old Minardi headquarters in Faenza and Red Bull Technology in the UK.
GB: Our company is Italian so for the future it will be clear that Toro Rosso will be based in Faenza.
Q: Some will ask, is it a coincidence that Jean Todt is stepping down as Ferrari CEO and you have just had a long conversation with Nicolas Todt? Is there something brewing?
GB: For years there have been that rumours about an involvement of Nicolas Todt - and exactly since that time I've called it bullsh*t. Sebastien Bourdais is one of our drivers and Nicolas happens to be the manager of Sebastien - that is the whole story. Nothing more to it.
Q: Any chance of you taking over Dietrich Mateschitzs 50 percent and becoming full owner of the team?
GB: Absolutely not. I am already out of money now!
Q: Is there already any interest from potential new partners?
GB: Well, we have talked in the past with interested parties about sponsorship deals and the idea came up frequently if with a sponsorship there also could be the acquisition of shares. But to this date it was never a real option, so I never followed such a route.
Q: We have just seen how difficult it was for Super Aguri to stay in business, so possible partners dont come ten a penny. How do you see your survival chances?
GB: If you are in a sport where the competitive teams talk about two, three, four hundred million dollar budgets a year, to find something in that range on the market is simply not possible. We have seen that even a team like Frank Williams sometimes has difficulties to keep their head above water.
Q: The sale situation seems to have arisen because customer cars will not be allowed in the future, so the benefits of collecting additional data from a second team will no longer exist. It also means that Toro Rosso has to metamorphose again into a constructor team. What are the chances of that?
GB: Well, when the cooperation with Red Bull Technologies ends we are capable in our own right of building a car. We still have all the facilities in Faenza - and they are much more advanced than at the time of the Minardi team. The key question here is not whether we can do it, but how well can we do it. For me it would make no sense to build a car and come in last all the time. That would not be my idea of being in Formula One.