Berger takes Montoya to task

Alonso on pole as Toro Rosso chief has dig at drivers
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The Independent Online

Trust Gerhard Berger to help lift Formula One out of its current news drought. A conversation with the Toro Rosso owner usually livens things up, and when the subject is Michael Schumacher or Juan Pablo Montoya joining Red Bull for 2007 the amusing but uncompromising responses come thick and fast from the hedonistic Austrian.

"It's very simple," he begins in his sing-song manner. "Red Bull has built up a very nice driver pool with some really good talent: Tonio Liuzzi, Scott Speed, Michael Ammermüller, Sebastian Vettel, really great guys. But we are still lacking a little bit of experience because they are so young. Every team that can have Michael is gonna take him, it's crazy not to do it. I don't think we need to discuss his talent, his achievement and his performance, physically and on the circuit."

But the money? $30 million (£16m) plus? Berger laughs. "Yeah, everything has its disadvantage. But I also understand that he has said to drive free for Red Bull." Another big laugh, as he senses some of his audience are about to swallow the hokum. "And he can look at the Formula Unas!" (The models Red Bull ship in for every race).

Berger was recently quoted as rejecting the notion of Montoya joining Red Bull. As the matter is raised he smirks in that aw-shucks, little-boy way that endears him to so many on the F1 circuit.

"OK, I know what you want - I was asked my opinion of Montoya and it was put a little bit in a way like Berger doesn't want Montoya at Red Bull. Not at all. I think Montoya is a very talented guy. We had him in Williams BMW and he had certain races where he was outstanding.

"But I don't think he delivered in the last year with McLaren what he should deliver. I think he can do much better. He has to prove much more than he lately did. That's all I said."

It is suggested that the mercurial Colombian needs to feel comfortable within an organisation (which surely he must do, given the equal-treatment culture that exists at McLaren). Berger becomes more trenchant.

"All this thing about he needs to be happy, he needs a designer to make a car to his driving style, it all doesn't count. If you go to a top team, and you are asking for $10m, $20m, $30m you have to cope with what you get. Go to a team where there is no pressure, then you are gonna be happy all day long.

"But if you want be in one of the top teams it's always gonna be difficult to be happy. You get a team-mate like Kimi Raikkonen or like Ayrton Senna or like Schumacher - and already then it's difficult to be happy, you know.

"I think if you have a David [Coulthard] with experience, it's better to have a young guy in the other car. I know the Red Bull philosophy is to get the young drivers, find the new Schumachers and Alonsos."

It is a pretty good idea. Besides Liuzzi, the one newcomer with the innate speed and technical feedback to emulate Fernando Alonso (and the charisma to boot), there are Lewis Hamilton and Adam Carroll, first and third in yesterday's GP2 race. But in qualifying for the grand prix, there was not much wrong with Schumacher and Alonso.

The Spaniard took pole. One suspects it was to Schumacher's surprise, though the German did his best to sound confident and upbeat. It was Alonso's first front-row slot of the season and Schumacher alluded to a problem in the preparation of his Ferrari.

Both anticipate a great fight today. For the sake of the show, let's hope we get one.