My phone beeped as I walked down the street last week. The message was from autosport.com: "Former Grand Prix driver Gerhard Berger has bought a 50 per cent stake in Red Bull's Scuderia Toro Rosso team." I raised my eyebrows in response. I might even have involuntarily "oooohed" out loud. Nothing like an out-of-the-blue news story to get your brain buzzing. But Berger, back in F1 - a surprise? No way.
When the Austrian quit as the head of BMW motorsport in September 2003, having announced his intention to leave six months earlier, few in Formula One believed they had seen the last of him. Berger himself made it clear he was leaving the door open. "First I want to see whether or how much I'm going to miss working in motorsport," he said. "If I can't cope without F1, I'll look around for a suitable task. I don't need to rush into anything just yet - I'm nowhere near feeling anything remotely like sweet boredom."
Actually, he never really went away. Just over a year after Berger left BMW, Red Bull bought Jaguar Racing - and it took no time at all for Gerhard to be linked to a role with the team. Red Bull's enigmatic owner Dietrich Mateschitz is an old mate of Berger's, and the energy drinks boss pushed his foot firmly into that open door. "Gerhard is an expert, and his advice would certainly be useful to us," he said. "If from that he can grow into another role within the team, that has to remain open right now."
"I'm not quite sure I want to do that," Berger responded. "But I keep close contact with Didi... If you take up that job, you have to be there 24 hours a day. Do I want to do this? I doubt it."