Exclusive Gerhard Berger Q&A - Toro Rosso can finish sixth 26 Sep 2008
Toro Rossos Monza victory came out of the blue. The team's enhanced level of performance has been clear to see over the last couple of races, but nobody expected it to pave the way to the top step of the podium - not even Gerhard Bergers, the squads co-owner. In Singapore Berger is enthusiastic about the sensational setting, but fears the new street circuit doesnt match the characteristics of the STR3. Could he just be bluffing, hoping to spring another surprise?
Q: Gerhard, Monza must have felt like you hit the jackpot. Can you review the circumstances that led to that race win?
Gerhard Berger: Gee, it was! But in reality we have improved our performance race by race. We have been quite competitive in dry conditions, as we saw in Spa where we were running in front of BMW and behind Ferrari and McLaren. In Monza we were in quite a similar situation, where we were very quick under dry conditions as well, but when it got wet we were even better and that was in our favour. During the race, we did not make any mistakes and both drivers did a very good job. The whole team handled it in a professional and perfect way. Clearly Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel were the two quickest drivers of the field, so having pole position was not the only factor that explained why Sebastian won the race. I think that even without the pole he would have had a realistic chance to win.
Q: In terms of the future of Toro Rosso, does the result have any consequences? Who could sell a team that just enjoyed its first race win?
GB: I got a lot of e-mails and text messages congratulating us for this win, but I have not received a big cheque so far. And it is clear that you need a big budget to be consistently on the podium. This win gives us a big boost internally and also a lot more recognition amongst the other teams, and of course with the public. I have to say that Red Bull Technology gave us this super quick and reliable car, and without them we could not have achieved this. And regarding the fact that we won the first race for Red Bull, and not Red Bull Racing, there were races were they have been clearly ahead of us. In the end, the result will be that Red Bull won, regardless of which of the two teams is the quicker one in certain situations.
Q: The status of Toro Rosso was always defined as Red Bulls junior team. Monza turned all that upside-down. What is the teams status now?
GB: I do not know the status. My situation was always a different one - we are ex-Minardi. We had to transform Minardi into a winning team, and do that - junior or not junior. All we want is to put somebody in the car and if he is 95 years-old and looks ugly or whatever, we dont care. If he takes the car the quickest way around the circuit and brings in the points, thats fine for us. We are trying to change this team into being a performance-orientated team.
Q: The win also kicked off discussions about the future of customer cars again
GB: This whole discussion is totally wrong. When I listen to some of the other teams, they are trying to protect their investments. Yes, they have invested five, six years ago into machines, into a wind tunnel and now they want to protect that because somebody has another concept. The FIA should be very tough on it. When you take a look at the automotive industry, Mercedes, BMW, everybody tries to cooperate with external companies, because sometimes it does not make any sense to build up a huge facility for three months a year and then when the chassis are built, you put everything aside. People force us to invest into incorrect things and that cannot be the way of Formula One. We are not really a customer team, but we are splitting synergies - and I think that everybody who has got a brain must see that these synergies are very necessary, because it is not right to burn money if you can do things in a different way. Because all our effort is with a smaller budget and to get into the situation where were putting on a good performance will enhance the Formula One show and probably attract more fans.
Q: You and team principal Franz Tost have built up a team that obviously has a lean structure and is very cost efficient. Is Toro Rosso the best example of cost-capping?
GB: I dont know. I couldnt exactly say if we are the role model. Some years ago Renault did a very good job winning the championship at much lower costs than some other teams. But I definitely think that efficiency-wise we are on the top at the moment. And in Monza we got the reassurance.
Q: There were reports in the last few days that you have demanded more money from Red Bull to secure the further development of the team. Is this true? And is it going to happen?
GB: I read that too. I cannot demand anything. In the end I - and we - are happy with what we get. We try to work around what we get. I also read that if we want to move to the next step we would need more money. Well, that is clear. But there have been no demands.
Q: And coming back to this weekends race, how do you see it?
GB: I really love it. I have to congratulate Bernie. It was a great idea to come here and have a street circuit - and to have it at night. The atmosphere is great. You can already see there are a lot of people at the track on Friday. It is a great achievement for Formula One. It is another show factor in it - and that is what we need.
Q: And with a view to your team - hows it going?
GB: We havent been too happy with the car today. It doesnt go around so well over the kerbs. We are not on our pace today. But for today thats okay because I think everybody is fighting the kerbs at the moment. In general, I would say that this is not a track to suit our particular liking - because of the kerbs - but the next race should be much better again.
Q: Toro Rosso hold sixth position in the constructors championship at the moment - one point ahead of Red Bull Racing. Is this a realistic position?
GB: Obviously we made a big jump in Monza. But we dont look to Red Bull. What we look at is that we have lost a lot of points this year by making small mistakes and we should have much more already on our account. Now we are trying in the last four races to get the maximum and I think we have a realistic chance to hold on and fight for P6.