“F1: It Was Clear for Me to Change My Life – Gerhard Berger”

Hockenheim II: DTM Hockenheim II 2018 on October, 12, 2018, (Photo by Hoch Zwei)
Pressekonferenz: Gerhard Berger, Vorsitzender ITR e.V.,

Gerhard Berger may be fondly remembered as one of the jokers of Formula One’s past, but with ten victories over the course of fourteen seasons, he is also one of the most highly respected drivers of the 1980s and 90s.

Now 60 and long retired as a Formula One driver, the Austrian tells World in Motorsport of his final year as a driver at motorsport’s top level.

“Y’know there was a funny thing,” Gerhard Berger says dryly. “There was Monza and I was staying in a hotel and I was in the top floor in the penthouse, and when it starts raining.”

Situated toward the rear of the DTM’s paddock motorhome with a few deft touches of the table-top, Berger motioned the changing conditions with the tips of his fingers. “You hear the [rain] tap, tap, tap, tap, because you wake up and over all the years I used to say, ‘Oh great, there’s rain, I have an extra chance and an extra risk.’

“Then suddenly I heard the tap, tap, tap, tap, and I said, ‘Oh shit, it’s raining tomorrow, it’s dangerous’, and I said to myself that it was a clear sign.”

Berger came into the 1997 Formula One season looking to improve on what had been a tough previous year. Having moved from Ferrari to Benetton at the end of 1995, neither Berger nor teammate Jean Alesi were able to come close to emulating the success enjoyed by the Italian team and their German pilot, Michael Schumacher.

From race winners and champions, Benetton were resigned to collecting occasional podia amidst a smattering of points finishes. Indeed, of the 16 Grand Prix held in 1996, Berger failed to finish in eight, including – most gallingly – that year’s German Grand Prix at the Hockenheimring, where the Austrian retired three laps from the end, having dominated the event. On the other side of the garage, Alesi fared little better.

Although rumours floated that he was in discussions with Williams and Sauber for 1998, Berger admitted to World in Motorsport that his decision to leave Formula One was made relatively early in 1997, revealing that, “It came from all sides at the same time and it was clear for me to change my life.”

Despite an early season podium at Interlagos, followed by the birth of daughter Heidi the next day, Berger’s season began to unravel after the Spanish Grand Prix in May. Surgery to tackle an inflamed sinus, followed by an aggravated infection and additional surgery, kept Berger out of his Benetton seat for three Grand Prix. During this period, Berger’s father Johann was tragically killed in private aeroplane accident in the mountain regions of Tirol.

Upon his return to Grand Prix competition at the German Grand Prix, Berger once again dominated at the Hockenheimring – this time taking pole, winning the race and apart from the pit stops, he led every lap. It proved a popular victory and is considered the finest of his ten race wins in Formula One. “All the stories are known. The thing with my father, the sickness, the difficult period I had with my team,” he remembers. “Still it worked out. And it wasn’t really a car where we had an advantage to the others and it became so clear – pole position, quickest lap, winning the race.

“My mind said prove again what you are capable of doing and it showed me how much the mind can actually [do]. It’s unbelievable, it proved it even to myself what the mind is able to move and to do.”

Time was moving on however, and at the end of the season, Berger officially announced his retirement from Formula One. “It felt very welcome in the paddock, because I felt people liked me, but at the same time, it was like, ‘What are you doing here? Your time is over.’”

Since retirement, he led BMW’s return to Formula One in the early-2000s, before becoming 50% owner in the early days of Toro Rosso (now Alpha Centauri). For three years, he was also President of the FIA Single Seat Commission and later became chairman of the ITR – the promoter of the DTM. Although he may not be competing anymore, Berger continues to push and use some of the lessons from his racing in his business dealings.

“This mixture between discipline, killer instinct and competition – you can use it in different ways in business,” says Berger. “I find it is an extremely good advantage. Also, I have my logistics business and my business meetings, and, in the discussions, it is quite interesting, because what you don’t measure has no value. You have to measure numbers, how long you need for this and people are sometimes surprised.

“My life was always measured by a stopwatch and the watch wasn’t lying, the numbers weren’t lying, so forget all your feelings and all these things – get it measured and then get judged by your performance. This basic way of thinking helps you in a lot of ways.”

For the full version of this interview, as well as conversations with and Rubens Barrichello – Formula One’s most experienced driver – and WRC’s Richard Millener, Andrea Adama, Yves Matton and Colin Clark, come back for the next issue of World in Motorsport, to be published in July.


Klettwitz: DTM Lausitzring Test 2019, Klettwitz on April, 16, 2019, (Photo by Hoch Zwei)

“WRC: ‘It’s almost at the point where we say ‘bin the season’’ – Colin Clark”

One of the WRC’s leading commentator’s, Colin Clark, believes that it may be time for the FIA to cancel the rest of the season in light of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to World in Motorsport this week, Clark mused that, while there doesn’t appear to be a specified number of events required to complete a WRC season, he believes there may need to be at least four more events to validate the championship.

Beginning in January, the WRC was able to run three events before the spread of the deadly Coronavirus stopped the season in its tracks during Rally Mexico in mid-March.

According to Clark – a regular reporter for the online magazine DirtFish, following several years as stopline report for WRC Rally Radio and All Live – a number of events may potentially be viable, but quarantine measures could hamper event participation and preparation.

“Remember M-Sport are based in the UK, a lot of the media, an awful lot of the WRC infrastructure is based in the UK,” says Clark. “This quarantine period that [the government] are introducing into the UK – if we have to spend two weeks in quarantine every time we come back to the UK it makes the whole thing very, very difficult. Difficult to schedule and difficult to logistically manage.”

One of the most respected and knowledgeable voices in the Service Park, Clark thinks there are opportunities to run the likes of Rally Turkey and Rally Germany, but beyond that, the championship could struggle to pull events together. “I think they’ll struggle to get four more rounds before the end of the year. Very much doubt we’ll go to Italy; GB’s in a lot of doubt; we pretty much know we’re not going to Kenya; Argentina I’m certain won’t be rescheduled and Japan also has to be in a bit of doubt, so I think we’ll struggle to get four rounds by the end of the year.”

So critical are the circumstances, Clark admits that it may be time for the FIA to cancel the rest of this season’s WRC competition, particularly as advice from various governments remains fluid and open to change and differing interpretations. “It’s almost at the point where we say, ‘bin it, bin the season.’

“We need to plan; we need to sit down and talk. We should use the time to address what it is going to be for manufacturers, for privateers, for media, for everyone – it’s going to be a challenging three or four or five years. Rather than constantly firefighting […] because things are changing, or working through potential scenarios, then it changes the following week, just bin the whole thing and let’s plan for a very difficult period to come.”

Beyond the current campaign, Clark also believes the economic aftereffects of the pandemic could also frustrate plans to introduce the new Rally 1 technical regulations. The new rules – planned to begin in 2022 – would see the introduction of a common hybrid drivetrains, as well as a standardised safety structure and a number of common parts.

However, with the collapse of car sales due to the pandemic, Clark believes that a rethink may be required. “We can’t go ahead with plans that were formulated before this virus and this crisis. I think any plans that were formulated, that were discussed, that were decided upon before the virus need to be reworked and looked at again, in particular, the 2022 regulations need to be considered again.

“Now is the time to do that. Now there’s plenty of time for people to virtually sit around the table and discuss, work out and address what are going to be enormously challenging times.”

For the full version of this interview, as well as conversations with Richard Millener of M-Sport and Rubens Barrichello – Formula One’s most experienced driver – come back for the next issue of World in Motorsport, to be published in July.

Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia during Rally Mexico. © Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

World in Motorsport, Volume 1

World in Motorsport Volume 1

World in Motorsport, Volume 1 is a 2018 season finale WRC special, featuring in depth interviews with title contenders Thierry Neuville and Sebastien Ogier. Also included is a chat with Ogier’s M-Sport teammate Elfyn Evans, while the latter portion of the magazine contains ‘The Long Talk’ – a fascinating discussion with WRC’s lead commentator Becs Williams, as she reveals all about WRC All Live project. Lastly, Issue 1 finishes with an analysis of Citroen’s new R5 project, the C3 R5, which is competing in both WRC2 and the FIA European Rally Championship.

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World in Motorsport, Vol 1 sample

With the launch of the pilot issue of World in Motorsport, below is a sample, featuring an interview with multiple World Champion, Sebastien Ogier.

WIM spoke to Ogier at the Red Bull Ring, during his guest appearance at the penultimate DTM round of the year, where the M-Sport man aptly displayed his adaptability and skill on the circuit.

In a relaxed mood, the Frenchman spoke of blowing off steam in the midst of tight championship battle, swapping between his WRC and DTM machine and his upcoming return to French manufacturer for the 2019 season.

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