Exclusive interview with Williams' Alex Wurz 01 Sep 2006
2006 has been a bumper year for testers. First Felipe Massa landed a race seat at Ferrari; then Pedro de la Rosa profited from Juan Pablo Montoyas disagreement with McLaren; and most recently Robert Kubica stepped up to replace Jacques Villeneuve at BMW Sauber. Perhaps most surprising of all, however, has been the news that long-term Friday man Alexander Wurz will return to a race drive with Williams next season, alongside Nico Rosberg. The old boxing adage says they never come back - but Wurz might just be the exception to the rule
Q: Five years as a Friday driver left many wondering whether you would ever return to a race seat. What took you so long?
Alexander Wurz: People obviously think that it is so easy to get a cockpit. I can assure you it is not. There are thousands of drivers out there dreaming the F1 dream, but the reality is that only about 26 a year make it to the grid. It's a fact that more people fly into orbit than land a F1 race seat. I guess that says it all.
Q: Your switching from McLaren third driver to the same post at Williams came as quite a surprise. There must have been more on offer than a Friday drive?
AW: When I signed the test driver contract with Williams there was a clear chance that it would eventually bring me into a regular cockpit in 07. And Frank (Williams) took that option. He said to me: Alex keep on pushing hard in 06 because this can get you a cockpit in 07. Obviously I did a good job.
Q: What was the biggest factor that turned the odds in your favour?
AW: Probably my ability to communicate with the team engineers. It is not enough that you feel what is going on when you drive - you have to be able to express those feelings verbally to the guys in the pits. Only then will you be able to work on the settings and improve the car.
Q: After a few years largely away from the grid, what will you be expecting in your first season back?
AW: Well, it was not that I was not racing. In fact I have been pushing one of the best F1 cars in the world against some of the very best F1 drivers on the racetrack while I was a test driver at McLaren. And this is like real racing, as you need to raise your game and keep the killer instinct that a F1 driver needs to have.
Q: What most excites you about the prospect of returning? Resuming the battles you used to have with Michael Schumacher?
AW: Of course I am looking forward to the duels with other drivers. When I am in the car I have a certain aggression that you need to have in professional sports. I started serious sports when I was 10 and was a professional sportsman when I was 12.
Q: As we know, you love extreme sports like kite-surfing and BMX racing, in which you even have your own team. Now that you are again in the fixed driver line-up, will you have to cut back on this because of the danger of injuries?
AW: I am not an adrenaline addict, which makes it a bit less dangerous. But of course I need to pay attention to what I do. But on the other hand, these sports sharpen my reactions and also help me mentally to focus on what is necessary. They strengthen me and help me to keep a certain mental discipline.