Gerhard Berger Q&A

When Gerhard Berger was announced as the new head of BMW's motor sport programmes, a few eyebrows were raised. Some cynics thought that he was just looking for an excuse to get out of the house and carry on travelling to all the grands prix, and that he'd never be able to devote enough time to the job. What people underestimated was the financial savvy and inside knowledge of the business which made Gerhard one of the best paid drivers ever, and kept in him employment with leading teams for over a decade. He learned an awful lot about how teams work during his stints at Ferrari, McLaren and Benetton, and his close personal relationship with Bernie Ecclestone and other top FIA officials also help give him a special insight into how the sport operates. It's only two and half years since his last GP, and his vast racing and technical knowledge is still relevant both to his employers and the Williams' two young drivers. He's quickly struck up a good rapport with Jenson Button, who like Gerhard, realises that there's more to life as an F1 star than just debriefs and fitness training. In other words, he's proved to be the perfect man for the job. Adam Cooper spoke to the Austrian about the season to date

Gerhard Berger Q&A

Q: Are you happy with your performance in Spain?

"Ralf did a good job. To race in third position is a big achievement for us. And then we were a bit unlucky to lose a place to Coulthard in the pit stop and lose a place to Barrichello with the Michael thing. Nevertheless we finished fourth, and we're very happy with this. Unfortunately Jenson lost this one point just before the end, but he's still going to be in a position to win points a lot of times."

Q: How frustrating is it that he's lost points right at the end more than once?

"I remember losing a win on the last lap at Hockenheim some years ago, so things like this happen."

Q: Were you unhappy with Michael's move on Ralf?

"They were fighting. It's OK. We were the loser this time unfortunately, but I don't have any problem with it."

Q: From the pre-season testing it wasn't clear to outsiders how the team would perform this year. What were your own expectations?

"I think it's an old story in F1 - you shouldn't be clear to the outside if you have something. It's better to be clear to yourself, and show what it's necessary to show! In the winter we didn't really try to show everybody what lap times we can do, because for us it was more important to fix our problems and find the limits. And of course if you go the limits you have destroyed engines, and it doesn't look too good to the media. But that wasn't important for us. We wanted to prepare ourselves for the season. That's what we did and that's what we showed."

Q: And how has the reality turned out for you?

"The reality has turned out that we had good preparation, we have good people and we are doing a good job. And of course we also had the right amount of luck."

Q: You had luck in Australia with other people not finishing, but did that result make a huge difference to everyone's confidence and motivation?

"It was great for the motivation when we finished third, but on the other hand in Spain we were fifth in qualifying when everybody was there. So I think it underlined that Australia wasn't only luck."

Q: Are you surprised about how quickly things are progressing?

"We are going a bit quicker than I thought we were going to. We are a bit ahead of our time schedule, but it can easily turn the other way round."

Q: How hard will it be to close that gap to the top guys?

"Yes, it's very difficult, but in Spain we were about seven tenths behind the pole, which is already quite good."

Q: You were a rival to the Williams team for many years. What's it like being on the inside now?

"Great. We started slowly and we get closer and closer. I must say they are unbelievably experienced and full of racing spirit. It's great to work with them."

Q: Do you now realise why Frank and Patrick have won all those championships?

"It's very clear. They are experts, they know everything about racing, and they are just very competitive."

Q: What about the drivers - you have two young guys both doing very well. Does that fit in well with your programme?

"Part of our concept was to be young, to be aggressive, and that's what our drivers are. I think they are great. Together they are 44 years old, but one of them is already quite experienced, and he's doing a good job."

Q: How good is Ralf? Some people think he might be as good as Michael eventually.

"Yes, I think he can be."

Q: What about you - are you enjoying doing a job that is so different from driving?

"It's different, but I like it. I feel very well in this role. The real challenge for me was to help BMW build up from a white piece of paper a team that can hopefully win races."

Q: Does it give you the same sort of buzz?

"I don't know. We haven't won a race yet! But I'm very happy when we do well."

Q: And you don't miss the driving?

"Not at all. I had a great career that I like to remember, but it's over."

Q: What did you think of the race at the front in Spain?

"It was interesting. It seems McLaren is on the pace again, and we're going to see some nice races in the future."

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