Berger backs sweeping changes at Mercedes

Gerhard Berger has backed the recent sweeping management changes at Mercedes.

Since the end of the 2012 season, Norbert Haug has been ousted, Lewis Hamilton has taken Michael Schumacher’s place in the cockpit, and new chairman Niki Lauda has bought a 10 per cent stake in the Brackley based team.

Moreover, Toto Wolff has switched his allegiance from Williams to Mercedes, taking up the role of executive director and control of a 30pc stake.

The next change could be the arrival for 2014 of McLaren’s highly rated technical director Paddy Lowe.

“I think Mercedes had to change something,” Berger, the former F1 driver and BMW and Toro Rosso official, told Austrian Servus TV.

“The performance and results in the past few years were not good enough. They won a race last year, but the bottom line for Mercedes was not enough.”

Berger also said the driver pairing of Hamilton alongside Nico Rosberg is “definitely” better than before, but ruled out returning from retirement himself to add yet another new face at Mercedes.

“I don’t think I want that stress again,” said the former BMW motor sport director and Toro Rosso co-owner.

“If you want to do formula one, whether as a driver or a manager, you can only do it with a full programme.

“One should never say never, but I feel very comfortable with what I’m doing now,” added Berger.


Berger could be candidate to replace Haug?

Gerhard Berger could be a candidate to replace Mercedes-Benz’s departing head of motor sport Norbert Haug.

That is the claim of the Swiss magazine Speed Week, specifically naming the former Ferrari and McLaren driver as potentially in the running for Haug’s job.

Austrian Berger, 54, was BMW’s joint motor sport director last decade, and until 2008 the co-owner of the second Red Bull team, Toro Rosso.

“We will inform you about everything in due course,” a Mercedes spokesman is quoted by the German news agency DPA.


Berger: I’d replace with Massa with Hulkenberg or di Resta

Former Ferrari driver Gerhard Berger thinks the great Italian team should drop Felipe Massa. However, after the Brazilian at Suzuka finally returned to the podium after a two-year absence, all the signs are that Ferrari is set to sign his 2013 contract. Austrian Berger is perplexed.

“This makes no sense,” he told Germany’s Auto Bild. “It’s never just about one race. I would put Hulkenberg or di Resta in his place. They are young and fast — exactly what Ferrari needs to fight for the constructors’ title,” added Berger.

Ferrari apparently does not agree. One team insider told Auto Motor und Sport: “Among the young guys we see nobody about whom we can say ‘We must have him’.”

Indeed, Massa, 31, is putting out the message that his future is now safe.

“The conversation we have been having until now has been that it (a new contract) should happen,” he told Portuguese-language media at Suzuka on Sunday. “I’m hoping it will be confirmed as soon as possible.”

Team boss Stefano Domenicali is also on message: “We will make an announcement soon,” he is quoted by Italy’s La Stampa.

If and when the news is confirmed, it will mean the seats at all of the top teams are essentially in place, with the rest of the 2013 grid to then follow suit. Ferrari-powered Sauber, tipped to re-sign Japanese Kamui Kobayashi after his hugely-popular Suzuka podium, has announced it will settle its 2013 lineup before November’s finale. And chief executive Monisha Kaltenborn also hinted about Massa’s future, suggesting speculation the Brazilian could return to Sauber if he is dropped by Ferrari is wide of the mark.

“It (Sauber’s decision) has, for a change, nothing to do with Ferrari,” she is quoted by the Sun.

Ferrari is expected to announce the Massa news either immediately before or immediately after this weekend’s Korean grand prix.

“This second place (in Japan) is a very important result in a decisive moment for him,” Domenicali is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.

Asked if that means Massa is staying in 2013, he added: “Let’s not take a second step before we’ve taken the first.”


Berger wants to make climb to F1 easier

Gerhard Berger wants to make it simpler for young drivers to progress through the junior ranks to Formula One.

The former ten-time grand prix winner, BMW motor sport director and Toro Rosso co-owner is now the president of the governing FIA’s single seater commission. Jean Todt, Berger’s former Ferrari boss and now FIA president, told the latest edition of the federation’s own Inmotion magazine that he is looking into “how we can best create a logical path for aspiring drivers from karting all the way to F1”.

The problem has arisen in recent years, with the path now cluttered with junior series including GP2, GP3, Renault World Series, F2, Formula Renault, Formula BMW, Formula Ford, F3, Auto GP and others.

It was much easier in 52-year-old Berger’s day, when he moved from Formula Ford and rose through the German and European F3 ranks and was spotted by the F1 team ATS.

“The commission,” Berger said, “looks at everything between karting and Formula One and I find that the pyramid at the moment is very loose. There are too many championships out there and attention between them is split too much.

“People are complaining that the best drivers are now all spread out and so you cannot look at the British Formula 3 championship, for example, and say that he is certain to get to Formula One. These days, the best drivers are all over the place. The system no longer does what it is supposed to do, which is to give a highly talented driver a CV he can use to progress to Formula One.”

Berger said he is “sure” he can help to “sort out” the system “because of the contacts” and skills he has.

He has started by championing European F3, and the next step – according to Berger – could be an all-new “Formula 4”.

“We are working on this,” Berger admitted.


Berger: F1 greats blaming problems on tyres

The 2012 ‘tyre lottery’ is a buzzword in the F1 paddock at present, but Gerhard Berger on Thursday slammed those who are complaining the loudest.

“It’s nonsense that the tyres are deciding everything,” said the former grand prix winner and Toro Rosso co-owner.

Some are moaning that the heavily degrading and unpredictable product supplied this year by Pirelli is devaluing the achievement of winning at the pinnacle of motor racing.

“I think Michael Schumacher and Red Bull are finding an easy excuse for their problems,” Austrian Berger told Auto Motor und Sport. He thinks a better explanation for the balance of power at present is the new exhaust rules, with aerodynamics no longer as important as in the past.

Berger also said the tighter restrictions on flexing front wings has similarly allowed the less financially-powerful teams to have a chance.

“So when there’s just a few tenths between first and fifteenth, the tyres come into play,” he explained. “I think this is just fine for formula one.”

Berger has no problem that the once-derided ‘pay driver’ Pastor Maldonado is now counted among F1’s exclusive club of race winners.

“He did a fantastic race from start to finish in Barcelona, withstanding pressure all the way through from Alonso. I think it’s right that an outsider can be rewarded for a great job,” he said.

Nonetheless, the head-scratching on the pitwall continues.

“There are many things from the last two races that we cannot explain,” said McLaren’s Jenson Button.

Peter Sauber added: “Only the top teams are complaining because they don’t win everything anymore. The tyres are the same for everyone.”


Berger plays down Senna rumours

Toro Rosso logoMany would not be surprised to see Bruno Senna at Toro Rosso next season however co-owner Gerhard Berger is playing down suggestions that Senna s move is almost a done deal.

Berger was Ayrton Senna s team-mate at McLaren during the 1990s and was one of his closest friends. Berger remains close to the Senna family and many believe that Ayrton Senna s nephew, Bruno, will be racing for Toro Rosso next season. Berger has said although he is willing to give the GP2 driver a test, he has not made up his mind on next season s driver line-up.

“I am still not convinced,” he said in an interview with Dutch magazine Formule 1 Race Report. “Bruno Senna is good enough for F1 but the same also applies to Roman Grosjean and Sebastien Buemi. But, so far, none of the three have completely convinced me you could say I don t yet see a new Vettel.

“I am willing to give him [Senna] a test but there are currently no concrete discussions over this.”