Although he is not behind the wheel anymore, Gerhard Berger remains passionate about Formula One.
Now that Toro Rosso are up for sale, Berger - a 50 per cent owner - admits he is not interested in making money, but rather staying on to enjoy what he loves so much.
Autosport.com heard from Berger about Toro Rosso's current situation and the future of the team.
Gerhard Berger: At the time we began a partnership for Toro Rosso, we had a clear goal of bringing the team from the back row to the midfield. We wanted to build an efficient, good team. We also split a bit our forces. Obviously Didi (Dietrich Mateschitz) took care of the financial side, and I took care of the sporting side. And, of course, with Franz Tost as team principal.
We had a clear vision of our concept. Using the Red Bull Technology, and using as much as possible synergies, our concept was within the rules and working well.
But with question marks about the future rules, for Red Bull maybe it doesn't make much sense any more to have two separate teams running. We have to respect this, because as Didi said, even for big manufacturers it is difficult to do.
I am very unhappy about it, because I have a great partner and I would need this partner in the future in Formula One. But if it comes to a situation that Didi does not want to keep going on, then obviously I have to see what are the possibilities that I can go on with the team. I would really love to reach the goals.
I have no idea if there is a realistic chance, and I would just do it if it is a circumstance where you are clearly going to be able, with resources and money, to reach your goals.
But I know Didi well enough, and as he stated in his interview, he will only sell if he sure the team can be as good or a better situation than they are in today. I think, as I know him, usually you can rely on his words.
That means the team there will be no change at the moment. As he said, in 2008 nothing is going to happen, and after that we will see. But I am sure he will take care that it is going to be done in a way that the team are not going to be hurt.
So again, it will be a pity not to be together with Red Bull because I have such a good experience with them. But I understand that to run two teams in an expensive world like here, it is a difficult one. In the meantime, hopefully we are going to show what we can do. The team are developing step by step and we have to focus on our work.
Q. So do you want to remain at the team with a new partner, or do you want to leave as well?
GB: For me, it is not a question of making some money. My passion is racing. I want to stay in Formula One with the team. But, only if there is enough facilities and possibilities to develop the team. If I cannot see that we can move forward, that would not be possible to do. You need to have a strong partner for it.
Q. Would you consider keeping your 50 percent?
Q. So, just 50 percent will be sold?
GB: That is not what I say. What I say is that I cannot tell you an answer on what is going to happen. If you see partners like Mercedes-Benz have with the Bahrainis, you have partners who can give you a big boost. But me? I love it, I would like to do it, and if I see the chance with either Red Bull as my partner or someone equal or better.
Q. So will Mateschitz consult you on what is going to happen?
GB: Sure. We have a 50/50 partnership, just like in every normal business structure. Of course, we will talk. I need to ask him and he needs to ask me.
For me it is important. I am not feeling bad about it. I totally understand him. Obviously, my dream partner is Red Bull, and they have always been. But you also have to see what it means. I respect whatever happens. I will support anything he wishes to do, but obviously the priority is not to hurt the team, and give the team a proper future.
Q. The team will become a constructor in 2010. Are you planning to keep it in Faenza?
GB: Our company is Italian, and the value of every company is the people. Our people are at home around Faenza, so for us it is clear that Toro Rosso is going to be an Italian company.
Q. Is there a coincidence between Jean Todt leaving his role as Ferrari CEO and Mateschitz going public that the team are for sale? Could he be a partner?
GB: No. Simply because there has never been any discussion. I read all these stories about a deal with Nicolas Todt, but there were never any talks other than the fact we have Sebastien Bourdais in the team and he is his manager. There was never one word discussed with Nicolas Todt or Jean Todt about any other thing.
Q. Is there a possibility Red Bull could remain on board as a sponsor?
GB: As I know Didi, he will not let us down. Maybe he has to make for different reasons a decision like this, and also maybe has to do certain things. But as I read even in his interview and, as I know, he will take care that everything is set in a way that this team has a future.
Q. Is there a chance that you could buy the other 50 percent of the team?
GB: I am already out of money, so no!
Q. Did you discuss the situation with Mateschitz before the interview?
GB: No. I didn't know.
Q. Have you spoken to him since?
GB: No, I have been travelling.
Q. Do you think the situation would have been different if Red Bull Racing were a winning team?
GB: No, I don't think it was one or the other. As much as it hurts me, I have much respect for what has to be done.
Q. Were you surprised Mateschitz gave the interview then?
GB: Yes, and no. Just, I could not clearly see it coming, but you always have situations where it goes a bit more left, a bit more right. This business is tough. It doesn't matter if you talk with Aguri Suzuki or Force India, even Frank Williams - every third year he is somewhere trying to get the head out of the water.
Under the line, the choice is that if you are in a sport where the competitive teams are talking about 200-400 million Euro budgets, and you have to find that on the market, it is just not possible.
Q. When will you speak to Mateschitz?
GB: Normally after practice! But what should I say? I know it is difficult. He needs to know what he can do and where he doesn't feel comfortable. I don't think it has anything to do that he doesn't like the team. If you have to build up two factories, with two facilities, it is just a big commitment.
Q. When does the contract with Ferrari expire, and will this affect it?
GB: We have a contract until the end of next year.
Q. Is it destabilising for the team after such a promising weekend in Melbourne?
GB: Yes, it is. But saying this, we are one of this Formula One teams that either survives or doesn't survives. Sometimes people survive, other times they struggle. You face all kinds of problems. This is one of the difficult ones, but it is explainable and it is not the end of the world. We will still keep fighting.
Everyone knows at this team that they have to fight more than other teams. It starts that there are not enough people here, so maybe it means a longer time in the factory. Then, you won't get the same equipment as other teams. So, all you can do is say: 'okay, we don't have the same or an advantage. But we have to do it ourselves?' An example was the pitstop in the last race. I think we have enough fighters in the team to cope with difficult situations.
Q. Will the arbitration action over customer cars need to be sorted out before a potential buyer can come in?
GB: This thing always comes up again. I am still 100 percent sure we are right what we are doing, we are within the regulations and we are fine.
Q. The move towards you needed to build a car from 2010 seems to go against the idea of teams saving money. What do you think about that?
GB: Yes, but you know, as I said before - we are totally within the rules, but it looks like we lost a couple of friends in the paddock. The other teams that have big facilities, like Frank (Williams), are totally against it.
And some others too. Are they right or wrong? I think they are wrong, because if you took one of their manufacturers away then I think they would understand what it is like to be in Formula One. Yes, if you have a manufacturer behind you, it is easy to say you don't want any cheaper version of F1.
But, when you are trying to find the money on the market, you see the market is different to what you need in F1. As long as I can go on with the team, I will go on with the team. At the moment, I still think we are going to have a good chance to survive and be on a good way.
Q. Are the staff worried?
GB: For sure, they are worried. For the employers, we have a very difficult job you know. The employers have a very difficult job, you know. You do your job not well, if you are not secure or what is happening tomorrow. You always have in F1 three, four or five teams where you don't know what is next year. But maybe it is even more motivation to prove that we can do something good.
Q. What about the possibility of a manufacturer like Volkswagen coming on board?
GB: No. You know, you can dream of different chances, but companies like this are ready at one stage and they come, but you cannot convince them. There are no manufacturers outside F1, searching to come in. And the ones that are in, are already set. I don't see anyone looking for a second team.
Q. Was there some discussion last year with Tony Teixeira?
GB: I don't know Teixeira, and I never spoke to him. But I know he was interested at some stage, although I don't know.
Q. And Roustam Tariko was your guest in Australia?
GB: Yes, but simply he was in Sydney and I know him as a friend. He phoned me, said he was in Sydney and wanted to come to the Grand Prix, so he came. I provided him with the tickets. He would be a great sponsor, because you are always searching. But everyone, including Force India, talked with him.