Gerhard Berger, born August 27, 1959, is a popular Austrian Grand Prix racing driver. With 210 Grand Prix starts to his name, Berger has driven more Formula One races than anyone except Riccardo Patrese.
Berger, a multiple race winner in European Formula Three, moved up to Formula One in 1984 driving for the ATS team. A full season for Arrows followed in 1985, but it was not until joining Benetton-BMW in 1986 that his F1 career took off. Exploiting the exceptional power of the BMW turbo engine, Berger won his first Grand Prix in Mexico, and was snapped up by Ferrari for 1987, the first of 2 spells he had with the team.
After mechanical failures robbed him of the chance to perform, Berger came on strongly in 1987, winning the final two rounds of the season, going into 1988 as a Championship favourite. Sadly for Berger, the McLaren team of Prost and Senna dominated the season, winning 15 of the 16 rounds. Berger was the only driver to break the McLaren stranglehold, winning the Italian Grand Prix after Senna tangled with a slower car. This was a particularly poignant victory for the team, as it came just weeks after the death of Enzo Ferrari.
For 1989, Berger was joined at Ferrari by Nigel Mansell. But again, the car failed to deliver the ultimate performance, and Berger was lucky to escape alive from a fiery crash during the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola's notorious Tamburello corner. Suffering remarkably few injuries, Berger was back into the action from mid-season, proving a popular winner of the Portuguese Grand Prix.
From 1990 to 1992 Berger joined Ayrton Senna at McLaren, but was unable to match the brilliant Brazilian's pace. He took just three wins in these three seasons, gifted the 1991 Japanese Grand Prix by Senna, by then a firm friend; and two victories in Canada and Australia when other competitors fell by the wayside.
Berger returned to Ferrari in 1993, the team recalling a popular driver to try and help it out of the doldrums. In 1993, Berger was instrumental in bringing Jean Todt to the team as Team Manager, laying the foundations for the team's future successes. In 1994, Berger recovered from the deaths of close friend Senna and countryman Roland Ratzenberger at the San Marino Grand Prix, to score an emotional win at Hockenheim, the first win for Ferrari since 1990. A final season with the team in 1995 saw Berger score a number of podiums, but with the arrival of Michael Schumacher in 1996, Berger moved back to Benetton, who became a shadow of their former selves. Berger spent his final two years in the sport at the team, winning them their last Grand Prix, again at Hockenheim in 1997, coming back after a long layoff following illness and the death of his father. He retired at the end of the season, a 13 year career in the top echelon of motor racing yielding 10 wins from his 210 GP, and 3rd place in the championship on three occasions.
A hugely popular figure in Formula One, Berger was up until 2003 regularly seen in the pitlane in his new capacity as Competitions Director at BMW, overseeing their successful return to Formula One in 2000.