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How good was Gerhard Berger?

Posted: Sun Dec 01, 2019 06:23 am
by PTRACER
What do the statistics say?

210 Grand Prix and only 10 wins. Is that really representative though?

He spent almost his entire career at Ferrari, McLaren and Benetton and was team mate to the world champion enough times. These days it seems he is rather uncelebrated and since I got into F1 around 1996, I was only really there to watch Berger in the twilight of his career (same with Jean Alesi).

Re: How good was Gerhard Berger?

Posted: Sun Dec 01, 2019 19:34 pm
by ReneLotus
Most of his time with Benetton and Ferrari was spent driving sub-par cars, whilst at McLaren he was the clear number two.

His first Benetton stint was with a rocket-powered car that usually broke down, except for that one race in Mexico in 1986.
He then joined Ferrari who were starting their notorious slump. He won two times in 1987 when the car actually made it to the finish line.
In 1988 the Ferrari was unable to keep pace with the McLarens during the race and if it hadn't been for Senna tripping over Schlesser, it would have been a Macca clean sweep.
In 1989 the Ferrari was even more unreliable, yet again he managed to win, this time at Estoril.
In 1990 he went to join McLaren, but at first didn't fit properly into the car and then it took until the last race of 1991 to score his first win (gifted by Senna). In 1992 he managed to pick up the pieces on two occassions when the all-conquering Williams weren't able to take the win and Senna dropped out.
In 1993 the Ferrari was probably even worse than in 1989, but in 1994 he dragged it to third in the championship and the win at Hockenheim.
In 1995 he took several third places, but generally Ferrari were unable to match Benetton and Williams.
His move to Benetton in 1996 coincided with the end of the Benetton happy days, yet he could have won at Hockenheim but for a smoky Renault engine.
In 1997 he managed to take a deserved and ballsy win (again at Hockenheim) after a period of personal turmoil.

So yes, he did drive for some of the biggest teams, but except for 1990 and 1991, he drove cars that were woefully off the pace or woefully unreliable. 'Only' 10 wins looks like a meagre haul, but in the same period Mansell, Senna, Prost, Piquet, Schumacher and Hill won nearly every race.
I'd say the stats don't really do his driving any justice. He could hang out at the top with the best of them on his day, but more often than not his day was scuppered by unreliable cars.

Re: How good was Gerhard Berger?

Posted: Sun Dec 01, 2019 21:06 pm
by The Ost
He was one of my favourites. It was clear the other top drivers respected him. He had longevity, and was still able to win races late into his career.

Re: How good was Gerhard Berger?

Posted: Mon Dec 02, 2019 00:37 am
by kals
ReneLotus wrote:
8 months ago
Most of his time with Benetton and Ferrari was spent driving sub-par cars, whilst at McLaren he was the clear number two.
Yes to this.

You don’t get hand picked by both Enzo Ferrari and Ron Dennis if you don’t have talent. He developed the Benetton BMW into a front runner then took the team’s first ever GP win in 1986, then the following year ended Ferrari’s 2 year win drought by making the F1/87 a season ending double race winner.

Gerhard was also a real character in the F1 paddock. Somewhat of a womanizer with a huge amount of charisma.

Re: How good was Gerhard Berger?

Posted: Mon Dec 02, 2019 22:52 pm
by JBT
Prior to Imola '89 he was very very good and could certainly match the top four guys some days. He's said himself that he lost some of the raw speed after Imola though. Added to that as ReneLotus mentioned, except for McLaren he seemed to join each team as it was in its own unreliable era.

Unrelated to the original question, but my favourite quote from him was in an F1 magazine from '93 (I think it was called Chequered Flag, a kind of Euro F1 mag in which the text often felt like it had been translated from a different language to English, I.e. a few strangely worded sentences etc). Half a dozen drivers on that years grid were asked the same short questions, one of them being something like 'what is your favourite exercise that you like to do?' Gerhards reply was 'i don't really understand the question, but I think fuck is the best exercise!'

Re: How good was Gerhard Berger?

Posted: Tue Dec 03, 2019 03:44 am
by PTRACER
JBT wrote:
8 months ago
Prior to Imola '89 he was very very good and could certainly match the top four guys some days. He's said himself that he lost some of the raw speed after Imola though. Added to that as ReneLotus mentioned, except for McLaren he seemed to join each team as it was in its own unreliable era.
I heard something like this...I remember him suggesting it took the edge of him mentally, he would lift when he wouldn't lift before. Perhaps that's how Mansell got around him at Mexico in 1990.

He may have been in the big teams while they were suffering a slump, but during those seasons where his team mate became World Champion, Berger wasn't even a challenger. Statistically, there was a bigger talent gap between Senna and Berger than Hamilton and Bottas.

Re: How good was Gerhard Berger?

Posted: Mon Dec 16, 2019 10:28 am
by Michael Ferner
Most overrated driver during his time. Lacking in capacity between the ears.

Re: How good was Gerhard Berger?

Posted: Wed Jan 15, 2020 18:42 pm
by ebeneezer
There's an incident involving Berger that might seem a bit petty to bring up, but it does highlight his lack of application I think...it was the end of the San Marino Grand Prix in 1986. Cars were starting to run out of fuel towards the end of the race, including the leader, Prost. Prost was a lap ahead of Berger, who was in 3rd place. Prost started to run out of fuel and Berger was catching him, and had the chance to unlap himself. Instead Berger slowed down to match Prost's pace, and followed Prost across the line. His thinking was presumably, "if I unlap myself, I might break down on the last lap, so let's do one lap less". Completely wrong of course, if he unlaps himself, he'll still be classified ahead of everyone who's already been lapped by Prost even if he does break down on the last lap. By not unlapping himself, it meant he didn't have a chance to overtake the driver in 2nd place, in the event that they would break down on the last lap. The incident was recounted in Christopher Hilton's biography, published in about 1993 I think, from what I remember he described it as a clever idea in that, meaning he still hadn't figured out his silly mistake in the subsequent seven years!

Re: How good was Gerhard Berger?

Posted: Tue May 12, 2020 15:18 pm
by White six
Didn't Piquet have a line that Berger was the greatest as he got paid lots of money for achieving nowt?

I think it was a joke, I seem to remember them getting on well