Formula 1 Insight

Gerhard Berger Joins the Club

With the sale of Gerhard Berger's share in Scuderia Toro Rosso, the Austrian leaves F1 to join the growing ranks of ex-team managers hovering around the edges of the sport, always ready to give an opinion on the latest events. He will be in good company, the sniper's numbers including such characters as Eddie Jordan, Paul Stoddart and Alain Prost.

Gerhard Berger
Gerhard Berger

Now that the German press reports concerning a possible link between Berger and Force India have been denied, it is hard to see where Gerhard could make a return to the sport. Most likely he will become one of those frequently rumored to be (but never succeeding in) re-entering in one guise or another.

Such men provide a useful service to F1, often prepared to make controversial statements on the politics of the sport as they are. How dull would things be if Paul Stoddart was never offered a microphone to renew his old battles with the FIA, for instance, or Eddie Jordan not given the opportunity to expound upon his quirky view of things. Even Alain Prost makes the occasional nutty move such as his announcement of willingness to stand for election as FIA President should Mosely resign.

They are outspoken and colorful characters, providing an interesting alternative viewpoint that it is tempting to believe more than the constrained utterances of team managers still involved in the game. No longer do they have to look over their shoulders at the requirements of sponsors, team owners or officialdom; it is as though they relish the opportunity to dish out a little dirt.

We might expect that Berger would be less controversial than those mentioned, however, with his known support of Mosely and close ties to Ferrari. But I suspect that it is more in Berger's nature to enjoy setting the occasional cat amongst the pigeons. This is the man who taught Ayrton Senna to laugh occasionally with his constant practical jokes, after all. He has shown us a more serious side to his nature while under the pressure of running a team but, now that he is freed from such concerns, the old joker may emerge again.

Certainly, he has been surprisingly open about the events leading up to his departure from STR. As I pointed out in an earlier post, the future for STR looks pretty bleak and Gerhard got out while the going was good. It is fairly rare for anyone in F1 to be so frank about financial matters.

So Berger may be a welcome addition to the select band of ex-team owner snipers. It is a smaller group than the old drivers' club but carries a little more weight in its opinions, it being assumed that these are the guys who know the politics from direct experience, whereas drivers are shielded from such things to some extent, at least. And, if the existing members are anything to go by, we can look forward to many years of cantankerous and mischievous comments from Gerhard.


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