Alexander Wurz - Williams point of view
The driver jigsaw started to form a much clearer outline in early January when the team announced that they had managed to secure the services of the experienced and highly regarded Austrian, Alex Wurz, as the team's third driver. Born on the 15th February 1974, in Waidhofen in Lower Austria, Alex is the second son of former rallycross champion Franz Wurz. Before turning his hand to motorsport, Alex tasted Championship level success as a BMX champion. The inherent sense of balance and a deep-rooted competitive instinct that took him to the top of the BMX universe stood him in good stead in motorsport, as he demonstrated when he graduated to German F3 in 1994 by finishing as runner-up to the highly rated Jorg Muller.
By 1996, after a season driving in F3, he took the wheel of Reinhold Joest's ITC Opel Calibra which in turn led to a run in Joest's Porsche WSC95 at Le Mans.
Partnered with Davy Jones and Manuel Reuter, he won the race in fairy tale style, to become it's youngest-ever victor, leading every lap he raced. Subsequently, Alex enjoyed outings in the FIA GT Championship for Mercedes-Benz.
Alex's positive disposition, personal charm and sporting talent in his native Austria secured positive sponsorship support from A1, the country's telecommunications giant, and that assisted in steering a path to Benetton in F1 after several F3000 outings for Helmut Marko. The team was going through a difficult patch, but when Alex took the wheel in Canada it served as a wake-up call for the team and spurred Alesi to finish second at the British GP, with Alex following him home for a place on the podium.
It was enough to win him a full-time drive for the team in 1998 and was the year that saw his best finishes – achieving fourth place in Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Canada and Britain, and a fifth in France. Perhaps his most impressive showing came at Monaco where he resolutely refused to be bullied out of the lead by Michael Schumacher. Unfortunately, a collision between them may have resulted in the suspension failure that soon afterwards pitched Alex off the road on the frighteningly fast exit to the tunnel. Bravery was a watchword for Wurz that year and after another accident at the first corner in Montreal that saw his B198 flip into the gravel, the young Austrian was enquiring after the spare car before he had come to rest and extracted himself from the wreckage. And that was the start of a day when he raced home to a fourth place finish.
By contrast, the 1999 season was a difficult one for the team, with Alex securing fifth place in his home race, and sixth at Monaco. He stayed with the team in 2000, but at the end of the year signed for McLaren, who needed an experienced test driver.
Alex has developed into one of the most consistent, quick and intelligent drivers whose ability to articulate and communicate the behaviour of a race car on the track is second to none. He took up the responsibility to be the Woking squad's man-Friday, helping to set up the race car at the Grands Prix Friday practice sessions and undoubtedly made a significant contribution to the team's strong championship performance.
The contribution was all the more tangible when team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya was injured at the beginning of the 2005 season. Wurz deputised and showed his considerable class by claiming a podium finish at the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola.
In January this year, Williams was delighted to announce that it had secured the services of not just the most capable test and reserve driver in the paddock, but also a highly competent racer in his own right. Wurz's addition to the Webber & Rosberg stable maintains a philosophy of retaining strong but affable and certainly highly talented drivers.
Alex will assume responsibility for the all-important Friday testing role, an opportunity which in recent seasons has catapulted Renault & McLaren to the head of the field.