Almost immediately, after the Japanese Grand Prix, Alex Wurz announced his retirement from Formula 1. The Williams driver had already confirmed that he would be leaving at the end of the year, but for reasons unknown brought his decision forward a race.
Wurz began this year after a considerable break from racing, although he had been testing in F1 to keep his skills up to scratch. The start of the season wasnít too bad, he had a sharp learning curve, and ended up on the podium in Canada. Things were looking good, but gradually the performance began to ebb away and frustrations began to rise.
It really was a make or break season for Wurz this year. Itís incredibly difficult to get back into racing once youíve left for a prolonged period of time, and he was lucky to have been given this opportunity. He clearly has the skill to make it work, but the season just hasnít panned out how anyone would have hoped. Several retirements, collisions and spins meant finishing out of the points on many occasions. And now the guy has had enough.
Iím particularly sad about this news, because I felt that Alex Wurz had a refreshingly honest look on life and the sport, and seemed to come across really well in interviews. He was part of a regular segment on the AT&T Williams podcast, where the presenter would phone him up at 20:07 every Saturday to find out what he was doing and how he felt about the upcoming race. One night, Wurz was to be found in his hotel room painting his own helmet!
Notably this year, Alex also welcomed a new baby to his family, and this has probably contributed to his decision Ė the desire to spend more time at home.
Although the announcement appeared to come out of the blue, Williams did not appear too shocked and were ready the very next day to announce their replacement driver for Brazil. Kazuki Nakajima is getting his F1 debut after numerous tests for the team. There are a lot of candidates for the spare seat at Williams in 2008, and potential drivers must be fuming that they didnít get a chance to have a go. Frank Williams is keen to point out, however, that the race will not be used to judge the driver for a potential 2008 race drive. Itís pretty clear, though, that if Nakajima does well, his chances of staying with the team will be raised.