Exclusive interview - Gerhard Berger on Vettel, Bourdais and KERS 29 Aug 2008
An underdog team last year, Toro Rosso have developed into the darlings of the paddock this season - thanks in no small part to the talents of young driver Sebastian Vettel. With several superb performances under his belt and an engaging attitude to boot - Vettel is the teams golden boy. But at the end of the season Gerhard Berger, Toro Rossos co-owner, will have to wave farewell as his favourite heads to Red Bull. What happens next? Berger doesnt know, but what he is sure of is that the team is currently over delivering - and the Austrian is confident it can continue to do so
Q: Gerhard, Sebastian Vettel has become the teams leading light, in terms of results and media interest. How difficult is it for you to let him go?
Gerhard Berger: Well, of course the media interest is important, but what is more important is the performance of the team - Sebastian has helped us a lot to get the right atmosphere back. We had been really struggling with Scott Speed and Tonio Liuzzi last year, but he has proved what the team is able to do and has done it in a very nice way, with us, with the engineers, with everybody. That has pushed us such an immense step forward - it is really a pity to lose him. There is not a single soul in the team that is not sad to see him go at the end of the season. On the other hand we get so much from Red Bull. Without Red Bull, Toro Rosso would be nowhere, so it feels good that we can give something back, even if I would like to have him stay with the team.
Q: With one cockpit definitely free, do you have a replacement in mind?
GB: The first direction that we look in is obviously to the Red Bull young driver programme and then well see. But we are not quite ready yet. We dont really have a list in our heads at this stage. We are far from saying its this one or that one because we are also waiting to see if something happens elsewhere - and probably then well get a new chance.
Q: How is the decision made? Is it something that you do yourself or do you confer with Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz?
GB: Everybody will bring opinions and then we - Didi and myself - will try to find the right way for the team. At the end of the day, the last word will come from Red Bull because that is where we get all our resources from, so it is natural that we listen to what he would like to do.
Q: What about Sebastien Bourdais? It seems that hes found the transition to Formula One racing quite difficult. Has this surprised you? You hired him because of his champion mentality
GB: In Formula One you have to give someone half a year of time before you start to judge him. The half year is over and he is now in a situation where he has to prove his talents. I would not say that I already have a clear opinion on him, but I also have to say that Sebastian Vettel started a couple of races before and he performed very well in the first half year. So we will have to see how the second half goes for Sebastien Bourdais. And honestly I dont want to be drawn into an expression of opinion at this very moment.
Q: But is he a fixture at Toro Rosso for next season?
GB: No. Its open.
Q: Are you satisfied with the season so far? There have been a lot of DNFs?
GB: We started with the old car, but that was part of the programme and at the end of the day we are having a fantastic season. Sure I would like to see more points on their accounts - hopefully theres more to come - but what we are doing now at Toro Rosso, in my opinion, is clearly over delivering.
Q: Are you still improving the STR3?
GB: We are still working on the car and there are still six races to go, which makes me convinced that we are heading into a good season finale. There is one circuit thats going to be difficult for us and that is Singapore - for downforce reasons - but the rest of the tracks should be fine for us, as we proved very clearly last week in Valencia.
Q: How is a small independent team like Toro Rosso dealing with the 2009 regulation changes?
GB: At a small team you just get on with the job because there is not much to do as there is not much influence that you have. There is simply not much you can do to turn it around. Just read what the regulations are and try to do it.
Q: Red Bull Racing raised concerns about KERS. What is your stance on that? There have been two somewhat turbulent team principal meetings on it...
GB: That is very simple - I understand the need for KERS, but I have to pay for KERS, and we simply dont have the budget to do it. So we would prefer not to have it, simply because of cost reasons.
Q: You said in a previous interview that it will be no big deal to separate Toro Rosso from Red Bull Racing again. It is just about relocating some staff back to Italy - what is the schedule for that?
GB: It is in a state of process - halfway I would say. We are consistently improving our infrastructure and I think we are in good shape.