The friendship between Ayrton Senna and Gerhard Berger, his McLaren teammate from 1990 to 1992, was full of dares and pranks. While Ayrton almost always did better than the Austrian on the track, Berger usually won out when it came to practical jokes. To celebrate Berger’s 57th birthday, we are taking a look back at a moment of pure “trolling” between the drivers.
The story is told in the book “Ayrton – O Herói Revelado” [“Ayrton – Hero Revealed”] written by Ernesto Rodrigues. While Senna was in the final stages of negotiating the renewal of his contract with McLaren for the 1992 season, Berger decided to poke fun at the Brazilian’s serious demeanor.
Both drivers were staying at a hotel located 40 miles away from the Monza circuit, where the Italian GP would be taking place that weekend, in September of 1991. To make the journey to the circuit a little faster, both drivers – along with Ron Dennis and his wife – took a helicopter.
In order to lighten the mood, Berger slowly opened the door and threw out Ayrton Senna’s briefcase, full of papers, when the helicopter was about 150 meters above the ground, according to Berger. Since Ayrton was more worried about flying the helicopter and getting to the track, he didn’t even realize his briefcase had taken a dive. Meanwhile, Ron Dennis and his wife, Lisa, kept quiet.
“I closed the door and saw the briefcase hit the ground without lifting any dust. The guy in charge of the helipad thought the helicopter had lost a component, and ran straight to where the case had fallen”, described Berger.
After landing, Senna started looking for his briefcase and was immediately suspicious of Berger. He stepped out of the helicopter and only realized it had been thrown out when the helipad’s employee showed up carrying it. Due to the impact against the ground, Senna’s pens had exploded, and his papers were covered in ink.
Once again, Senna would have to have his payback on the track, since it was hard competing with Berger as a prankster. He secured the pole position on Saturday and kept the lead for half the race, only finishing in second because of a non-scheduled pit-stop. Mansell was the winner, and Berger finished in a modest fourth place.