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Gerhard Berger and Toro Rosso

I like Gerhard Berger’s style. He was a great racer in his driving days, perhaps one of the few whose ego could survive being teammate to Ayrton Senna, even beating the great man on rare occasions. The stories of practical jokes played on each other are the perfect illustration of the mutual respect between them.

So it is good to see Gerhard running the Toro Rosso team in the same way – cheerfully independent and determined to succeed. The struggle with parent team, Red Bull, over Vitantonio Liuzzi’s services (which Toro Rosso won) shows that Gerhard is quite prepared to fight Toro Rosso’s corner against the guys who supply the money. I can imagine, too, the smile on Gerhard’s face at those races in 2006 where his cars embarrased Red Bull’s by being quicker.

Liuzzi

Vitantonio Liuzzi in the Toro Rosso STR-01

It is no surprise, therefore, to read of Gerhard’s insistence that Toro Rosso will design and build their own car for next season. There may have been suspicions that they would run the same chassis as Red Bull in 2007 (and some teams were getting ready to protest this) but that is not Gerhard’s style. I know what he’d like to do – beat Red Bull. It stands to reason that the man who spent most of his driving career trying to beat the best should continue that habit as a manager.

He might well have the tools to do it, too. If his team can produce an effective chassis, they are in with a chance, even though Red Bull’s engineering team is now very strong with the addition of Adrian Newey and others. Minardi demonstrated on several occasions that it is possible to design a good car on a shoestring budget – their problem was always that they never had as powerful an engine as other teams. Toro Rosso could get it right in the same way.

There is nothing wrong with their power plant as well. The Ferrari engine is at least as powerful and reliable as the Renault – the trick is in mating it effectively to the chassis so as to make best use of its characteristics. Admittedly, no-one has managed to do this as well as the Ferrari team so far but it has to happen sooner or later, even if by accident.

Then there is the matter of drivers – and here it’s youth against experience. Red Bull have two proven warriors in Webber and Coulthard, both of them capable of winning races and with enormous depth of experience. Toro Rosso’s Liuzzi and Speed are young, enthusiastic and have a learning year behind them. All other things being equal, you would expect the veterans to beat the newbies – but things are never equal. If the Toro Rosso is good, the drivers could do the job.

Next season is shaping up to be one of the most interesting for years. And the struggle between Red Bull and Toro Rosso could be one of the talking points. Red Bull insist that Toro Rosso is a part of their empire but independent of their control – if Gerhard’s boys start beating their sister team regularly, Red Bull might just have to grin and bear it.

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