The incredible Gerhard Berger prank that needed Bernie Ecclestone to stop it

Thomas Maher
Gerhard Berger and Bernie Ecclestone at the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Gerhard Berger has recounted a prank he played that required intervention from Bernie Ecclestone...

Gerhard Berger has recounted a prank he pulled on Eddie Jordan flying home from the 2002 Japanese Grand Prix.

The Austrian driver became infamous as a prankster teammate alongside Ayrton Senna, including one particularly memorable prank that involved him throwing the Brazilian’s suitcase out of a helicopter – which included some very important travel documents!

But another prank Berger found himself involved in was regarding his own briefcase, and got so out of hand that it took the intervention of former F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone to rein it in.

Gerhard Berger sets up suitcase prank on Eddie Jordan

Berger, who was overseeing BMW’s engine programme and partnership with Williams, was on a chartered flight home with McLaren boss Ron Dennis from Suzuka – where Jordan revealed a new partnership with Ford for the following season.

With Jordan asking for a lift home on the same plane, Berger couldn’t resist setting the Irishman up for a memorable prank.

“We had a plane together, Ron and myself, flying to Japan,” Berger recounted as a guest on the Formula for Success podcast, to which Jordan mumbled in response, ‘It was two weeks of hell!’

“On the way back, before the race, he came to me and said ‘Gerhard, would you mind if we took Eddie back with us’?

“No problem at all. At the time, I wasn’t racing. I was motorsport director of BMW and we supported engines to BMW.

“This was Eddie’s big weekend, presenting in Suzuka his new partner – Ford as engine supplier, there was a big press conference and so on.

“Anyway, when I heard the stories, I went back to the motorhome and I said to my guys ‘Can you take a piece of paper and write on that we’re gonna supply Minardi next year with a BMW engine, free of charge?’

“It was a very good engine at the time. I put it in my briefcase and, after the race, we all ran to the airport.

“We went onto the plane, everybody got his place. I put the briefcase in the middle and I said to Ron, ‘Ron, I’m going to the cockpit to the pilots, and you say to Eddie ‘Come on, let’s open the briefcase, let’s have a look what he has!’

“I went to the cockpit, took 20 minutes, and walked back. Eddie couldn’t even sit straight at this stage!

“He said ‘Gerhard, what are you gonna do next year with the engines? Do you still have exclusivity with Williams?’

“I said ‘No idea, next year maybe we’re gonna supply a second team!’ and [Eddie said], ‘Did you think about us?’

“I said ‘Eddie, no, you chose Ford’ and Eddie was like ‘No no, don’t worry, don’t worry, it’s not important! We could be the best team for you! Williams-BMW and Jordan – young and fun!’

“I said ‘Eddie, you have a contract’, and he said ‘Don’t worry about it, we’ll sort everything out!’

“I said to Eddie that it was a fantastic idea. I would love to give Jordan, we were just talking with Minardi – he knows everything because he read the paper in my briefcase!”

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Bernie Ecclestone gets involved in Gerhard Berger/Eddie Jordan prank

With the trap laid, Berger left Jordan stewing in his own juices, and spent the rest of the flight seeing how excited the Jordan team boss was getting about the prospect of a different engine deal.

“The flight was 12 hours, longer than that, and Eddie didn’t sleep one second. He was just thinking all the time how he could bring this thing further,” Berger said.

“I started to go like I was going to sleep and, whenever I’d open one eye, I could see Eddie! I told him that we had to have a look deeper into it.

“‘I need to convince my board at BMW because now we have Minardi, but maybe I can talk with them. But, you know, I need all your numbers of your company.’

“‘I have it, we have just a due diligence!'” was Jordan’s response, with Berger exploding in laughter as he continued the story.

“So I told him to send me everything so I could prepare my documents for the board of BMW! 12 hour flight, you have no idea, and Ron was just sitting there looking at me!

“Before we landed, I told Eddie to send me all the papers and ‘One thing, you know who is very [influential] to all the boards is Bernie [Ecclestone], you should have Bernie on your side. Maybe he can do a call and say it’s a good idea to give it to Eddie’.

“‘I’m gonna call Bernie again, immediately!’

“When we left the plane, Ron pulled me aside and said ‘We need to tell him, we can’t let him go like this’.

“I said to let him go, we left, and, between there and home, I think I had about 25 missed calls! The next day, I got 40 pages of all the Jordan figures, everything!

“At one stage, the day after, I got a telephone call from Bernie, and Bernie says to me, ‘What did you do with Eddie, Eddie is sitting in front of my office, I have no time and he’s talking about some shit! What did you do with him?!’

“So, at that stage, we had to stop it. Eddie came to me, ‘Gerhard, you bastard, write me an email that you’re not gonna use my papers for anything wrong – it’s very discreet!’

“I said, ‘Yes, Eddie, and you write me an email that you never look in my briefcase anymore!’

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