Dont call it a comeback - Alex Wurz exclusive 30 Jan 2008
After his emotional farewell from Formula One competition in Shanghai last year, many thought the next time Alex Wurz would grace a Grand Prix would be as a guest at his home race in Monaco. But in the hectic Formula One world its prudent never to say never and just weeks after his early exit, Wurz was back, confirmed as Hondas test and reserve driver.
When it comes to developing cars, the Austrian is hot property and it is no wonder that new team principal Ross Brawn wanted him in the Honda ranks. Speaking exclusively to Formula1.com, Wurz explains the reasons for his return and reveals his plan to test drive the Japanese squad back to the front of the grid .
Q: The retirement from the retirement - what made you change your mind after your emotional farewell from Formula One racing?
Alex Wurz: Although I retired from active Formula One racing, I have always loved the testing and development part of the sport. There was nothing to reconsider for me as I had not retired from motorsport, just from F1 racing. The position of test and reserve driver at Honda is exactly the type of role that I wanted after the end of my racing career. It fits perfectly into my personal plan at this stage of my life for doing what I love, which is developing racing cars. As the Honda Racing F1 Teams reserve driver, I will be attending every race and if the situation arises where I am required to drive over the race weekend, then I will do that with pleasure and to the very best of my ability.
Q: Everybody agrees that you are one of the best, if not the best development driver in Formula One racing. Did you find it difficult to draw on those skills when you were racing last year?
AW: Thank you for the compliment about my testing skills. I consider that only a very few drivers are proper development drivers and our work makes it very difficult to measure in terms of points. I would say that my skills in testing and developing a car have certainly helped in my racing career, not only for myself, but for my team and my team mates. I am sure that Frank Williams would agree that my two years at Williams have made a significant contribution to the teams progress over that time, which was in fact part of my mission at the team.
Q: When did the negotiations with Honda start?
AW: The first contact was at the beginning of December and we reached an agreement in principal shortly after that.
Q: How long did it take you to make the decision to join the team? Did you do a lot of soul searching over Christmas?
AW: It was a very quick decision for me to make after the initial contact from Honda. I wanted to continue in Formula One and to work for a team like Honda - with its heritage, resources, and the challenge of achieving further success - was an excellent opportunity for me, so the decision was quickly made.
Q: How long does your contract run for?
AW: I have a multi-year contract with the team. Personally, I consider this role as a commitment for the long term. I want to contribute to the development and future successes of the Honda team.
Q: To what extent did the recent addition of Ross Brawn as team principal attract you to Honda?
AW: Certainly the fact that Ross has just joined the Honda Racing F1 Team made it a very interesting proposition for me, along with some of the other very talented guys that I knew from my previous teams, such as Loic Bigois (former chief aerodynamicist at Williams). Furthermore, to be a part of the Honda family, with their great racing heritage and past successes, makes it an honour to be part of this team. I am hoping to bring valuable experience and knowledge to the team to help our combined efforts to move up the grid.
Q: Obviously you and Brawn will start from scratch, as development at Honda seemed to be going backwards last season. From what you have seen so far, what is the cars biggest problem?
AW: I dont believe that we need to start from scratch as the Honda team has great resources and now it has the right people in place to be a front-running team. However, in elite sport there can only be one winner and everyone continually needs to improve their game and work hard to achieve success. Ross has proved that he can help teams to re-organise and set themselves up to be a winning outfit. It would be unfair to everybody here to say that the team has to start from scratch, as they are a very talented group of people, but of course, there is a lot of work to do to achieve Hondas ultimate ambitions.
Q: What do your family think about your Formula One comeback?
AW: As a father of three, my family is very happy with what I do. Felix thinks its normal that his dad goes to drive cars, Charlie loves watching the on-board footage on the internet, whilst Oscar is fairly relaxed as long as he gets his milk at the right time! As for Julia, the real boss is happy as well, so the Wurz clan is ready for another season.