When thinking of the great Ayrton Senna, we picture the focused, serious, and competitive man who brought home 3 World Championships and 41 race victories. However his teammate and friend Gerhard Berger was able to bring out a different side not typically seen. Popular accounts tell of many ingenious practical jokes thought up by Berger to help break up the serious moments of F1 racing.
Stories describe an incident at Monza where in a joint helicopter ride Senna had been showing off his new tailor made briefcase. Having been made of carbon fibre composite, Senna argued that it should be virtually indestructible. Berger, without much hesitation and much to Senna’s disbelief, opened the door of the helicopter and threw the briefcase out, to test the hypothesis.
“It fell somewhere near the course but we found it again,” Berger recalled with a cheeky grin.
Australia, 1990, several days before the race. After dinner, we started to throw people in the swimming pool, all dressed. As I was good at defending myself, I escaped from the bath, but many people got wet. Senna ran away to avoid us from getting him, however, later, I went to his room and he awkwardly threw a glass of water at me. For a Tyrolean, that was nothing, but it did mean that the game was now on. With a hose, we improvised an extension to the fire extinguisher and we put it under his room door at three in the morning. We invited some people to watch and when we pushed the lever, Senna flew out of the window like a rocket. It looked like a bomb had exploded inside the room. The confusion woke many people up, who started to scream at Senna for making so much noise. He was terribly embarrassed.
On another occasion, in an Australian hotel room Berger filled Senna’s bed with animals. Senna understandably infuriated, confronted Berger by saying;
“I’ve spent the last hour catching 12 frogs in my room,” to which Berger replied, “Did you find the snake?”
“Actually they weren’t frogs, they were bigger, more like toads. In Australia they have this kind of stuff. I thought he liked animals but clearly not,” Berger explained. It was an incident that prompted retaliation by Senna, who then proceeded to put a strong smelling French cheese in the air conditioning unit of Berger’s room.
Best known is probably an incident in which Berger replaced Senna’s passport photo with what Ron Dennis described as “an equivalent-sized piece of male genitalia”. Senna’s fame meant he rarely had his passport checked, but on a later trip to Argentina Berger’s prank resulted in officials holding the Brazilian for 24 hours. As a response to this gag, Senna superglued all of Berger’s credit cards together.
This post made my day.