The 21st episode of F1 Beyond The Grid podcast has Alexander Wurz talk about his F1/sportscar career, frustrations, track design business, GPDA and more.
Wurz starts the F1 Beyond The Grid podcast talking about his track design business – named Test & Training – and how it came about. He reveals he wanted to go to art school but went for vehicle engineering as racing was on his mind.
The art was still there as he used toe design his own helmets. He also talked about a tussle with McLaren’s Ron Dennis over his helmet design which hampered with the sponsor colours. The topic then moved to his BMX championship win in 1986.
He was a tad late to start his karting career as he didn’t know that there is a separate racing license for racers. He then talked about the single-seater move and the German F3 title loss in 1994 which set his career back a little bit in open-wheel category.
That pushed him to take up the touring car and sporstcar opportunities that came by, which led his first Le Mans 24 Hours win in 1996. It followed by a test opportunity with Benetton at Estoril, upon a call from Flavio Briatore, who was having a shootout in Portugal.
Wurz recalls how he connected with a Formula 3000 team and ran at Estoril to gain some knowledge about the track. The experience worked in his favour as he got the reserve role for 1997 after beating Giancarlo Fisichella and others.
He then talked about his F1 debut in Canada when fellow countryman Gerhard Berger got ill and Britatore called Wurz at his home to break the news. He competed in three more grand prix with a podium in British GP but it came with lot of politics.
Wurz revealed about a contractual situation which Briatore initiated to soak in more money but Benetton management decided to move him out. The Austrian got the full seat in 1998 but his problems continued, especially with the media pressure.
Despite the troubles with Briatore, Wurz praised his former team boss for getting the best out of him or the other drivers. They talked about the 1998 Monaco GP crash with Michael Schumacher, which he said ended his close friendship with the German.
The topic then moved to his McLaren role when Dennis offered him a test drive, as Wurz took it up with the idea of building his way to a race seat. However, things weren’t as smooth as the Austrian explained as he frustration started to grow.
Even the 2005 San Marino GP debut for McLaren came under unusual circumstances after Juan Pablo Montoya’s injury. The team almost had Pedro de la Rosa in the car but Wurz was the rightful driver to fill in. Wurz said Dennis stopped him from racing for Jaguar too.
As for the McLaren seat, the toss up was between him and Kimi Raikkonen as Dennis picked the latter, while not releasing him to race for Jaguar and later on with Red Bull. He also revealed that he had the offer to be in Eddie Irvine’s seat at Ferrari in 1988.
They then talked about McLaren M4-18, which no one wanted to drive and his huge crash at Paul Ricard in a MP4-17 after a mounting issue from Michelin. He said the French manufacturer came to his house to apologise and rectified the mistakes.
Denn eventually let Wurz go as he then moved to Williams in a test role and was offered the seat in 2007. He recalled the 2007 Canadian GP when he decided to leave F1 at the end of the season, which ended early after Williams decided to test Kazuki Nakajima.
He then moved back to sportscar with Toyota as he spoke about the love for it and how it all started. They also talked about Fernando Alonso and how he helped the Spaniard to settle in as he revealed of his Williams F1 work and rim heating technique idea.
The topic moved to his GPDA role as he revealed how he got all drivers to sign. He said there were disagreements over track clashes but he got everyone on the same boat eventually to talk better of the sport. They ended the podcast with track design discussion.