Austrian Alex Wurz has joined Williams as their test and reserve driver this winter, after five years as test driver for McLaren-Mercedes, having previously raced more than three seasons for Benetton. At the Williams FW28 launch on Friday, Wurz met the press to answer a few questions...
Q: You've driven with Mercedes and Cosworth; where to you rank the two engines?
Alex Wurz: "That's a question below the belt... I have driven the Mercedes [V8] engine in a very early stage, so I'm sure it will improve from there.
"At the end of the day, I can only tell you from the Cosworth engine that never in my career have I revved an engine as I have this one. It is a pleasure, because although there is less power, the revs are there and that makes me very happy.
"To be quite honest, though, I don't want to compare the engines, simply because I don't have enough knowledge about what the Mercedes camp are doing with their engine right now."
Q: When did the opportunity with Williams first present itself?
Wurz: "It all came up in quite a short notice. I will not go into confidential details, but at the end of the day we received a phone call from Frank Williams and he said, 'Alex we here at Williams are a bit confused because we thought you had already signed up with the opposition.' And I said: 'As we speak, there is an offer but I haven't signed.'
"And so we both agreed to meet at Williams, and it happened in a very short time for Formula One. We agreed on terms and conditions and that we wanted to work together, and I can tell you honestly that halfway through the meeting with Frank Williams and Patrick Head I said to myself that I felt right in my stomach - although I didn't say anything so not to hurt my negotiation power. I think it is the right choice.
"I am a rational thinker, but for me this was very emotional. There is a rational background, because I think with Williams and all the changes they have - running a third car on the Fridays - I think I can make an impression here. So that's how it came to be."
Q: Having worked with McLaren and Williams, how do you compare the two organisations?
Wurz: "I have been with McLaren for five years, and I just want to get this off my chest and say that these were very nice and interesting five years. Sometimes hard, sometimes super-nice.
"If you compare the organisations, you can say that the starting point is the same. They are very ambitious people and their destination and their goal is the same - trying to beat the others. So that is exactly the same. In between that, you have the emotional philosophy and the personnel side, and that is completely different.
"If you talk to Frank Williams or Patrick Head or Sam Michael, or you talk to Martin Whitmarsh or Ron Dennis - they are very different in the way they speak. Not that I'm judging, you see, but it is different."
Q: Do you feel more valued at Williams?
Wurz: "It is a bit early to say. I have done five days on the track, and this is my third time. I have had quite a lot of meetings and discussions. But the value only comes with the amount of power and difference you can make. So if you do a good job, you are valued higher, you know.
"At the end of the day, it is a team effort. I am driving for a group of 500 people, so I have to adjust to their world more than they adjust to me. And so far, from the first meeting, we have had a good relationship. Very interesting, straight forward, very technical and very deep in the technical realm."
Q: How frustrating is to be a test driver again? Are you frustrated that a rookie like Nico Rosberg got the race seat, while you are the test driver?
Wurz: "I think it is very good for Nico, he came very quick into Formula One, he is 20. I was 22 when I came into Formula One, and so I know how it is from that point of view. I had my setbacks in F1, and quite frankly that makes you realise how lucky you are if you are one of the few guys who are privileged to drive these cars, who are actually wanted and employed to drive this cars.
"There are only so many seats on the grid, so the thing that is next is Friday driving and the testing role. I always want to stay in Formula One because they are the quickest car, the quickest driven technology, always trying to push the edge and that is what excites me. That's why I'm here."
Q: Do you see the Friday role as an opportunity to promote yourself?
Wurz: "I realises at McLaren that in four years I have set an enormous amount of lap records at Barcelona, Valencia and Jerez. I had long runs, which are sometimes very, very quick and sometimes the quickest ever, and it took one Friday pole and it counts more.
"So I realised that Friday is actually... because F1 is a media driven world, even if the team bosses have all the data - if you are there on the TV, and you are there on the top of the list, then it counts a little bit more.
"On top of this, a more important thing for me is that it is a very special challenge in a short period of time to make big decisions for the race time. Tyre choice, direction of set-up, and in these two Friday sessions, the circuit is changing a lot. You have to really calculate this into all your decisions, because not necessarily the quickest tyre is the quickest tyre, because it was set at maybe a later time with different track conditions, so I like that challenge.
"I enjoyed it very much with McLaren [last year] and I'm looking forward to the same here with Williams. And not to forget, I will be competitive. I think I will be the only Bridgestone Friday runner, so I realised straight away with Bridgestone the importance of this."
Q: How long is your deal with Williams?
Wurz: "I agreed with Frank not to talk about this."
Q: Would you like to be racing again next year?
Wurz: "I want to race already this year. Definitely."
Q: How important is it for you to race again?
Wurz: "If I don't race, I'm not going to slit my wrists. I'm still a happy guy, you know. But the aim is to do so."
Q: Is the primary target to race at Williams in 2007?
Wurz: "The primary target is to race for a world championship winning team as the number one driver. There is only one guy who can do that. So you just have to see how it goes."
Q: Were you surprised when BMW elected to stay with Jacques Villeneuve?
Q: How close were you to signing for another team last year?
Wurz: "I've been ultra-close, but is has not happened, so... fate. And not only once, but a few times. This year, I am not commenting on it. Certainly [not on offers that came] before I had signed for Williams for the coming season."
Q: Alex, what are your first impressions of Nico?
Wurz: "He is very quick, there is no doubt about it. I haven't really studied his driving style, and that is very important for me, because I have to understand how they (Rosberg and Mark Webber) drive.
"It is a little bit of a giving relationship as a test driver, and I am good at this because I am a team player. I found this at McLaren as well, because at a certain point I could tell if a change was going to benefit Kimi [Raikkonen] more than Juan Pablo [Montoya] or the opposite way. I would always make sure the team are aware of it.
"I hope to do 90 percent of the development work for both [drivers] in the fine-tuning areas, and therefore I want to study a bit more both drivers' styles."
Q: How much do you have to change your driving style with the V8?
Wurz: "Quite a bit, to be honest, because there is less power. And it is not only the slow speed stuff, where you are trying to keep a little bit more momentum through the corner; it is also the high speed stuff. Because if you have 930bhp and you put the gas down at the last corner at Barcelona, the whole car starts to move with the torque on the car.
"Now, I have driven the Cosworth and the Mercedes, and any V8 engine has 20 percent less power, so when you put the power down not much happens. So it influences the chassis, influences the driving style, and it has a knock-on effect. You have to look at less aero.
"The tyres have to cope with less energy, because there is less power, so we can go to different compounds, different constructions. It is a whole change. It doesn't mean it is easier to drive, just different. It is always difficult competing against the best guys, so it is always difficult to be quick."
Q: Who do you think is going to win in Bahrain and why?
Wurz: "The guy who crosses the finish line first! It is very tough to say, because it is not only about speed, but also all the rule changes about reliability. Maybe at the beginning, with the new qualifying format, some people will figure out some tricks and do a better job. Probably in the first races, where it is going to be hot, some people will be running extreme on cooling. Let's wait and see."