OCTOBER 20, 1997
Gerhard Berger retires
GERHARD BERGER, one of the most colorful characters in Grand Prix racing over the last 13 years, is retiring from Formula 1 racing, but the Austrian has left the door open just in case an opportunity of a new drive presents itself. Berger announced the news in a press conference in Vienna, telling reporters that he needed a break from the sport.
"I am very tired and exhausted and I want to dedicate myself to my family," Gerhard said. "It's necessary for me to live without the sport for a while. But if you look at the examples of Niki Lauda and Nigel Mansell you can see it is not easy just to quit. Maybe I will drive again in the future if there is an interesting offer available."
The fact is that at 38 none of the Grand Prix teams want Berger any more, despite his 209 Formula 1 races and his 10 wins. He has raced more than any driver other than Riccardo Patrese and his 10 wins put him on a par with James Hunt, Ronnie Peterson and Jody Scheckter in the all-time list of winners. He twice finished third in the World Championship (1988 and 1994). He was lucky to emerge unscathed from an enormous fiery accident at Imola in 1989 when his Ferrari hit the wall in Tamburello Corner at 173mph. His friend Ayrton Senna died at the same corner in a similar accident five years later.
Berger is unlikely to remain in retirement for long. He was an enthusiastic and brilliant touring car racer in his youth - he continued racing for BMW until he joined Ferrari in 1987 - and the Munich marque will no doubt be keen to see him back with them again. At the same time his vast experience in F1 engine-development may prove to be very useful for the BMW men as they prepare for the company's return to F1 in the year 2000.
Always a clever businessman, Gerhard leaves F1 with a vast fortune, far more than many of the men who won World Championships in his era.
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