In an interview at the eve of Gerhard Berger's last GP as BMW Motorsport Director the Austrian looks back to his successful BMW years. Q: In the light of the current performance of the BMW WilliamsF1 Team, it can hardly be said that you are ...
In an interview at the eve of Gerhard Berger's last GP as BMW Motorsport Director the Austrian looks back to his successful BMW years.
Q: In the light of the current performance of the BMW WilliamsF1 Team, it can hardly be said that you are abandoning a sinking ship. So why are you leaving your post as ship's pilot?
Working with everyone, first and foremost Mario Theissen, has been an extremely harmonious experience. Whatever I might decide to do professionally, I'm unlikely to find a partner like Mario again. We complement each other so perfectly and I have so much trust in him. We got a lot of things off the ground and had a lot of successes.
Q: If BMW were to win the World Championship again one day, you would no longer be a part of it. Would that cause you any regret?
GB: No, not at all. I would be proud of it. After all, I was involved in setting up the team that is now vying for the championship. I'm convinced the team is ready for the title and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for them.
Q: How difficult was it making the switch from driver to director?
GB: The most important aspects were developing a team and company mentality. As a driver you have to be self-centred, but as a team captain that is counter-productive. Mario naturally helped me a great deal in getting used to the down-to-earth corporate way of thinking and the way a major car manufacturer such as BMW is structured. He knows the company and all its workings back to front. I learnt to deal with countless details and parameters which a driver wouldn't give two hoots about.
Q: What were the goals you set yourself as a BMW Motorsport Director and what have you achieved?
GB: These have been five successful motor racing years for BMW. Victory at Le Mans in 1999, a great start to Formula 1, our first wins, second place in last year's World Championship, plus triumphs in the European Touring Car Championship -- and Formula BMW is also shaping up very well. Of course I can't stick all these feathers in my hat alone, but I'd like to think that the task that BMW's then chairman, Bernd Pischetsrieder, gave me in 1998 has been optimally fulfilled.
We have set up strong teams for the various areas and have organized them well. Our concern was always to position BMW on both the sporting and the representational front in a way that was appropriate and beneficial to the company. The five-year contract with WilliamsF1, which involved some hard negotiating, is just the right way to wind up my term of duty.
Q: Were you initially sceptical because BMW wanted to build the F1 engine and everything it entailed by themselves?
GB: After I had been shown what was possible in Munich, specifically in the FIZ (BMW Research and Innovation Centre), I had not a moment's doubt. I'm sure that BMW with all its resources could also build a good Formula 1 chassis. But, yes, in the beginning people thought this was verging on megalomania. And it was a bit of a risk, for example, to develop and manufacture the engine management independently from the start.
But ultimately it proved absolutely the right move for us to build our own factory and other facilities such as the F1 foundry and to employ our own people. Just how good the BMW technicians and engineers are can also be seen in the fact that the competition are trying to woo them.