PODCAST: Gerhard Berger on partying, practical jokes & more
He was fast. He was daring. He was fun. Gerhard Berger epitomised Grand Prix racing in the Eighties and early Nineties. The Austrian enjoyed life off track - partying hard and becoming renowned as a practical joker - as much as he did on it, where he scored 10 victories across 14 memorable seasons. Unsurprisingly, he has plenty of tales, many of which he reveals in the latest episode of Beyond The Grid, presented by Bose.
In a wide-ranging and entertaining discussion with Tom Clarkson, Berger reflects on an illustrious career. “I tried to take everything,” he says. “I tried to get the result, I tried to not miss the party, I tried to have a nice holiday, I tried to make some money. I tried to capture a lot of things. In some ways, it worked out. The only thing I’m missing is the world championship.”
Does Berger ever wonder what might have been if he'd focused all his efforts on racing? “It’s difficult to say,” he says. “Yes, I was questioning myself sometimes, but I remember when I came to McLaren, at the time I was together with Ayrton [Senna] the star, I was coming from Ferrari, having won races. Ayrton was arriving in McLaren, coming from Lotus.
“[Then McLaren Team Principal] Ron Dennis said to me ‘Gerhard, you are a brilliant driver, you’re a big natural talent but we have to shape you. You are a diamond but we have to shape you. You cannot use the kerbs in the way you’re doing, you need to be clean’. I was listening. But was it the right way to be listening?
"I don’t think so, I just should have stayed as I had been, using the kerbs in the way I did because that was my instinct. It’s the same when if you say if I had been focused, and not going to the party. Would it make me more successful? I don’t know. I doubt [it]. “
Berger remembers his time racing alongside Ayrton Senna, and the Brazilian’s view of his practical jokes, recalls a meeting with Dietrich Mateschitz, who offered to sponsor him just months before he launched his company Red Bull and recounts meeting Ferrari personnel at a petrol station and being transported under the cover of a blanket to a meeting with Enzo Ferrari!
Then there was his remarkable recovery from two terrible accidents. It's all in this week's Beyond The Grid!