Scuderia Toro Rosso co-owner Gerhard Berger has admitted that the team is no closer to making a decision on its driver line-up for 2009, despite being given an ultimatum by rookie Sebastien Bourdais on the eve of the Chinese Grand Prix.
The four-time Champ Car champion is beginning to make waves on track after a slow start to his Formula One career, but also caused a few ripples off it this week when he used his regular column in French newspaper l'Equipe
to admit that he is not going to wait around forever to find out whether he will be returning to Faenza next season.
Berger, however, confirmed on Friday that the team was still trying to build as clear a picture as possible on its various options, having tested both Takuma Sato and Sebastien Buemi as possible replacements for Sebastian Vettel, and been linked to Bruno Senna as another alternative.
"We don't really have news at this stage," Berger told a media conference at Shanghai International Circuit, "We are collecting names and data, and trying to understand what could be the best solution for us."
There was another positive quote for Bourdais to hang on to, however, as the Austrian insisted that the rookie's recent performances had opened a few eyes at STR.
"Obviously Sébastien is on top of the list," Berger insisted, "He especially drove a very good race last weekend, and he did well today. He is struggling to score a result for different reasons - sometimes his own mistake, sometimes because of a similar decision to last week - but, generally, we see that there is some good potential.
"However, we are not ready yet to make our decision. Obviously, we also have to see how we replace Sebastian [Vettel], so we are still in this process."
Berger also admitted that Vettel's win at Monza had helped to raise the team's profile beyond that of regular backmarker but, despite the benefits that brings, he admitted that it had not made finding backers - or possible owners - any easier, and doubt still remains as to the long-term, with the debate on 'customer cars' rumbling on. Should the team be forced to sever its ties with Red Bull Technologies, not only would Dietrich Mateschitz potentially put his half of Toro Rosso back on the market, but the cost of competing would increase substantially as the team would be required to design and build its own cars.
"Our situation hasn't changed at all," he started, "No, it has changed as our performance in the last half year really helped us a lot to position ourselves in a good way. Also, my partner, Red Bull, is still committed very much behind the team. If the regulations change in a way that the system we are using at the moment, and share costs and get synergies for both teams, I think the situation could change for us and could help us, so I think that is the good side.
"The bad side is that, in general, the financial situation is very difficult. Sponsors are not coming into Formula One at the moment, not at all. The numbers you are asking are much too high. That is another issue that has to be addressed very well in the discussions in the next few months. I think you have to come down in a dramatic, huge way.
"It is a bit too early to say if it is turning around in a good way for Toro Rosso or not? I think it is not yet ready to know this but, generally, we are fighting and we will try to do our best for the last two races and then we are going to see."