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Williams Opt For Wurz Over Webber

Williams Opt For Wurz Over Webber

Alex Wurz tussles with Michael Schumacher - Monaco 1998Seemingly not content with Renault, BMW, Ferrari and McLaren hogging the limelight with regards to driver changes for 2006 and 2007, Williams have announced that Mark Webber‘s services will not be retained for next year. Instead, Sir Frank Williams has opted to promote test driver Alex Wurz to a full race seat, which will see the Austrian return to competitive driving after a long spell as tester for McLaren and Team Willy. It was also announced that (surprise surprise) Nico Rosberg has been re-signed for another year to complete the team which will run Toyota engines next season.

Whilst Alex Wurz is a very capable and mature racing driver, one has to ask what Alex has that Mark Webber doesn’t? I personally rate Wurz highly and will never forget the tussle he had with Michael Schumacher at Monaco in a poorish performing Benetton many years ago in 1998. But does the British team owner really rate Alex higher than Webber – who although has endured a difficult two seasons (almost) with the team – has done relatively well and is certainly committed to the squad?

Although Sir Frank has made some excellent decisions in the past with regards to driver line-ups, I do fear that his (and Patrick Head‘s) stern view of ‘no-bullshit, just-race’ mentality can mean that drivers are released from the team before results are reached, or just after results are achieved. Maybe it is because I am British, but I still cannot get my head around the sacking of Damon Hill from the team in 1996 (or whenever the decision was made, reputedly in 1995). It goes without saying that signing great Formula One drivers like Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, Ayrten Senna, Jacques Villeneuve (in his day) were superb decisions made at excellent times, but in the same breath I do wish Williams would carve out a new path to the top with an attitude of commitment to both suppliers and drivers.

Nico and Alex will perform to the best of their abilities, that goes without saying, but one has to wonder how the relationship between ‘no-bullshit, just-race’ driver Webber deteriated to this eventual change for 2007?

Any bets on a Fisichella and Webber Renault team next year?

Oliver White

6 comments

  • here’s another angle. last year, highly respected tyre tester, mr. wurz was doing a fine job for mclaren but really wanted to race. mclaren didn’t have seat for him. bridgestone really wanted alex’s input for the ’06 season so convinced williams to hire him. realising what a good position he was in, mr. wurz insisted on a race seat in ’07 as part of the deal.

    thus williams had no choice but to bail out one of their drivers. if you look at how bridgestone’s season is progressing i’d say the loss of mr. webber is a small price to pay.

  • A really interesting take on the situation, K, but…

    …Why didn’t they remove Nico from the equation for one or two years but keep him on contract a.k.a. Button-gate? It would have been a nice earner for Williams and they would have the chance to reclaim him once Williams have settled in with Toyota and Nico has more experience.

    There’s no doubt though, Wurz is clever, wants to race and has worked his move from McLaren to Williams to his favour. Why else would he have switched…?

  • i’m guessing sir frank has seen something in nico that he didn’t see in button. or, when it came to loaning button out williams had bucket loads of bmw’s money and could afford to pay him not to drive for them, they don’t have that luxury with nico now.

    of the two, the second one is more likely.

  • The general understanding of what happened with Damon Hill is that by Williams’ high standards he had had a poor year in 1995, losing numerous tactical battles with Michael Schumacher, colliding with him on two occasions and finishing 33 points behind him in the World Championship. As a consequence, Sir Frank decided to replace him with Heinz-Harald Frentzen in 1997.

  • When you think about it, Mark Webber’s two years at Williams have been very disappointing. Although he has put in some strong performances from time to time, he has only been rewarded with one podium finish, at Monaco in 2005. You’d be tempted to say that he chose the worst two years to be with Williams, when their partnership with BMW disintegrated and they brought out possibly their most unreliable car ever. Let’s hope that he has a much better time at Red Bull next year.

  • I hope Webber has a better time at Red Bull as well. I think he is talented and deserves a shot in a reliable car. I will always remember him putting the Jaguar further up the grid then where it should have been, it’s just a shame that the cars he’s driven haven’t been so good over race distances. With Newey and Red Bull’s cash, hopefully the RB3 will be reliable for him.

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