Gerhard Berger is a former Austrian racing driver who spent fourteen seasons in the Formula 1 World Championship, driving for five different teams (ATS, Arrows, Benetton, Ferrari, McLaren) between 1984 and 1997. His biggest achievement was to finish third overall in the Drivers’ championship in 1988 and 1994.
Career worthy of respect
Over the span of his career, Berger started in 210 F1 events and won 10 Grands Prix races. He also achieved 48 podiums and 12 pole positions. Gerhard Berger has always had the reputation of being a good team driver and has contributed significantly to two of McLaren’s titles in 1990 and 1991 when he drove alongside Ayrton Senna.
Ayrton Senna and Berger
Lucky enough to avoid death
During his early days of racing, Berger had a lot of success in the European Formula 3. It was in 1984 that he moved up to Formula 1 as a pilot of the ATS team.
Unfortunately, soon after his debut season, Berger almost lost his life in a serious road accident. While he was driving home through the hills near Salzburg, his car was rammed from behind, resulting in it cartwheeling off a cliff. Berger was thrown through the rear window of his car. He broke his neck and damaged some bones in his back. It took an emergency surgery for him to fully recover.
The next year, he moved to the Arrows team but it did not have its cars coordinated. Berger’s performance that season was very poor; he finished at 20th place overall.
Video - Berger's crash at Imola 1989
1986 - Turning point of Berger's career
In many ways, Berger’s career really took off from 1986 when he joined the Benetton team. He had a car which allowed him to showcase all his talent and potential. Predictably, success arrived immediately in the form of a victory at the Mexican GrandPrix.
In the meantime, Berger tested himself in the European Touring Car Championship driving BMW 635 Csi, in 1985 he won the 24 hours of Spa partnering Italian touring cars ace Roberto Ravaglia and fellow Formula 1 driver, Marc Murer of Switzerland.
Gerhard Berger was driving the #20 Benetton B186-BMW in 1986
Move to Scuderia Ferrari in 1987
Berger’s speed and talent was noticed by Ferrari, with whom he spent three seasons. In his first year with Scuderia, Berger clinched two victories with impressive performances in the second half of the season. Both the driver and team were considered as the title favorites for 1988, but McLaren was spectacularly fast and dominant that year and Berger had to settle with third place.
The next year was disastrous for Berger even though he won Grand Prix in Portugal, but main his success was that he has survived horrible clash at Imola. He had to retire from 12 of the races that year and it was obvious that he needed a new challenge.
Gerhard Berger as a Ferrari driver
Three seasons alongside Senna in McLaren
From 1990 to 1992, the Austrian joined Ayrton Senna at McLaren. Over the course of those three years, Berger won three races and failed to repeat his impressive driving from the training sessions.
Finally he became frustrated as being treated as the second fiddle in the team and decided to accept an invitation from his compatriot Niki Lauda to join Ferrari for the second time.
Second spell with Ferrari
In his second stint with the Italian team, which lasted for three years, Berger won one race and finished third overall in 1994. Berger spent his last two seasons of Formula 1 with Benetton team, but did not produce anything spectacular and at the end of 1997 Berger decided to hang up his boots, even though he had an invitation from Sauber to join them for the next year.
Post racing activities
After he retired from racing, Berger worked as a Competitions Director at BMW. In 2006 he acquired 50% of Scuderia Toro Rosso, but two years later he sold his share back to Dietrich Mateschitz. In 2012, Gerhard Berger was appointed President of FIA Single Seater Commission, staying in that position until December 2014. In March 2017, Berger became a chairman of ITR, the promoter of the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters.