BRIEF ENCOUNTER: GERHARD BERGER How a chance meeting in Styria 35 years ago changed the world of motorsport forever…
I t was my first full season in Formula l.
I was driving for Arrows-BMW.
I was gradually Money was tight and I had to fight incredibly hard for every penny.
Luckily, BMW had faith in me.
The car was solid but slow and the standard I had to measure myself against was my team-mate, Thierry Boutsen.
The Belgian was experienced but I felt I was gradually getting the better of him.
But my future wasn’t looking too rosy because by the time the Austrian Grand Prix came round,
There’s more attention on you at your home race than normal and almost everyone that shakes your hand wants something from you.
I was gradually This guy was no different.
Normally you try to keep this sort of conversation as short as possible. You roll your eyes (internally) and make your excuses.
Unfortunately, I was in no position to roll my eyes so instead I listened to what he had to say.
He didn’t have a company set up yet, he explained, but that would all be sorted within a few days… or maybe a few weeks… or months. He didn’t really have any money either, so I might have to make a little advance payment, if I could.
But he would be able to offer me the massive sum of $10,000.
Six later he had set up his company and he called me to check if our deal still stood. “Of course,” I said. And that’s how we sealed the deal.
So that’s how a paddock encounter gave rise to a unique motorsport success story, a partnership that has lasted all these years and, what’s more, cemented a lifelong friendship.
Bernie went through the roof – but I stuck to my guns. That was the spirit in those early years: we were always a bit cheeky and constantly rubbing people up the wrong way.
Without it, it might never have happened.
The Österreichring is now the Red Bull Ring. There are now two F1 teams, Red Bull Racing and Scuderia AlphaTauri, plus there’s the Junior Team.
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