Alexander Wurz

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F1 drivers elect Romain Grosjean new GPDA director

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Romain Grosjean has been made a director of the Grand Prix Drivers Association by his fellow Formula 1 drivers, taking over from Jenson Button.

After stepping back from his McLaren F1 race seat at the end of last year, Button has not been present at any grands prix so far this year, but is due to race in Monaco when Fernando Alonso is at the Indianapolis 500.

The GPDA held a vote for its new director during the Russian Grand Prix weekend, with Grosjean being nominated by his peers to take over the role.

Grosjean races for NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas’ eponymous F1 team, and is one of the sport’s longest-serving drivers, having made his debut back in 2009 with Renault.

Grosjean joins fellow director Sebastian Vettel and chairman Alexander Wurz in running the GPDA.

“In the GPDA assembly held in Sochi on Friday 28 April, Romain Grosjean was elected GPDA director, replacing Jenson Button who stepped down from the position as a result of not permanently racing in the 2017 F1 world championship,” a short statement from the GPDA reads.

“I am proud to have been elected by my peers as director of the GPDA. We race drivers don’t always hold the same opinion, but as a group we are united in wanting the best for our sport,” Grosjean said.

“I believe was have an important role and duty to coordinate between each other and support the stakeholders in the evolution of the sport.”

“It was a pleasure working with Jenson over the past few years as he always puts in the interests of the drivers and the sport first. Thanks JB for all your effort,” Wurz added.

“Over recent years Romain has been a very active GPDA member. He has a lot of energy and thoughts about our sport and Sebastian. I welcome him as a great addition to the Grand Prix Drivers Association board.”

Wurz was told he’d race for McLaren in 2002 before Raikkonen signed

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Ex-Formula 1 driver Alexander Wurz has revealed that he was told he’d be racing for McLaren in 2002 before the team signed rookie driver Kimi Raikkonen to replace the outgoing Mika Hakkinen.

After winning the championship with McLaren in 1998 and 1999, Hakkinen announced in 2001 that he would take a sabbatical from F1 before ultimately entering full retirement.

Hakkinen was replaced by another flying Finn in the form of Raikkonen, who had made waves in his rookie year with Sauber despite having only 23 car races under his belt before debuting.

Raikkonen would go on to lead McLaren until the end of 2006, coming close to the title in 2003 and 2005 before eventually winning it with Ferrari in 2007.

However, history could have been very different, with Wurz revealing in a blog for the McLaren website that he had been told he would replace Hakkinen for 2002.

“Towards the end of the 2001 season it became clear that Mika Hakkinen would retire, and I was quite hopeful at the time that I would replace him,” Wurz wrote.

“In fact at the Monza test I had to get out of the car. I was on a long run, and they stopped it for me to receive a phone call from Martin Whitmarsh. He said, ‘Congratulations, I thought I’d interrupt the test, because you’ll race for us next year.’ He was so excited to tell me, because it was just after the meeting where they had decided it.

“We did not know at the time that Ron [Dennis] was also negotiating with Sauber to get Kimi out. If Sauber had said ‘No’, and if Ron had not thought that Kimi was a better option than me – which he probably was to be fair – then I would have raced for McLaren in 2002.

“Anyway, I did not get a follow-up call after Monza, which is when I realized there was something brewing. So I got on a plane and went to see Ron, and he said ‘Actually, we are talking to Kimi.’

“It was too late and too difficult at the time to get another contract. I was grown-up enough even back then to realize that they did not do it to hurt me, they did it because they thought it was the better option for the team.

“The choices I had were to be like a spoiled kid and walk away, or to be a man and just continue to try to convince them by doing a good job for them.”

Wurz continued in a reserve role at McLaren until the end of 2005, finishing third in his only race for the team when he replaced the injured Juan Pablo Montoya in the San Marino Grand Prix.

Wurz also revealed that he turned down a drive with Newman-Haas in CART because he was certain he would have to replace Montoya for more races due to his shoulder injury.

“At that time I had an offer from Newman-Haas to go racing in the States. However, I was thinking that I would also race at Barcelona and Monaco, for McLaren, in place of Montoya,” Wurz wrote.

“I had to do a promotional trip to Moscow with Juan Pablo, and he when was at dinner I noticed he had to kind of throw his hand onto the table to eat. He could not lift his hand properly, that was how bad his shoulder was.

“But he had to prove that his tennis accident on the motocross track was not so severe. So, at that time I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll be back in the car next race,’ so I said ‘No’ to Newman-Haas.

“But then Juan Pablo came back after all, and his shoulder was fine, and in the end I only ever did that one race for McLaren.”

The Austrian would get one final season racing in F1 with Williams in 2007 before moving into endurance racing, from which he retired at the end of 2015 and is now focusing on his role as chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association.

Coulthard: Wurz an unsung hero in Formula 1

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Ex-Formula 1 driver David Coulthard has identified Grand Prix Drivers’ Association chairman Alexander Wurz as one of the series’ unsung heroes for his efforts to improve safety standards throughout 2015.

Driver safety in motorsport has been a key issue once again in 2015 following the deaths of F1’s Jules Bianchi and IndyCar’s Justin Wilson, both of whom sustained severe head injuries in races over the past 18 months.

Wurz balanced his commitments as chairman of the GPDA with a drive in the FIA World Endurance Championship with Toyota in 2015, but will retire from motorsport following a one-off appearance for Chip Ganassi Racing at the Daytona 24 later this month.

Wurz told MotorSportsTalk back in August that he believed closed cockpits would be ‘the most logical choice’ for single-seater racing in the future as he continued to push for improved safety standards in motorsport.

Writing in a column for The Telegraph, Coulthard praised Wurz for his efforts across the course of 2015 despite the Austrian not spending much time in the limelight.

“For all the big meetings he brings all the drivers together, even those who are not [GPDA] members, and makes sure they stand as a united front,” Coulthard wrote.

“After every race he writes to Bernie Ecclestone, the sport’s chief executive, Jean Todt, the FIA president, and Charlie Whiting, the race director, to express the drivers’ feelings on the circuit or any accidents that have taken place.

“Team principals may sound off in front of the cameras for their own ends, but Alex works quietly behind the scenes for the greater good of the drivers and the sport. He does this away from the glare of publicity and receives little public recognition.”

Coulthard went on to tip Wurz for an increased role in racing in the future, believing that the offer to run Manor Marussia F1 Team is just the first of many he will receive.

“I have no doubt that one day he will find himself in a major role in motorsport,” Coulthard said.

“He turned down the job of Manor team principal, but it is just a matter of time before big things happen.

“We should also not forget, in the year of his retirement, that Alex scored three podiums in F1, not to mention winning the Le Mans 24 Hours twice. He is a credit to our sport.”

Wurz takes up advisory role with Toyota WEC team

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Following his retirement from motorsport at the end of the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship season in Bahrain last month, Alexander Wurz has moved into an advisory role with the Toyota team.

Wurz announced in the lead-up to the 6 Hours of Bahrain that he would be retiring from competitive racing after the event, where he signed off with a third-place finish.

The Austrian had been combining his racing duties with his work as chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association in Formula 1, but will now balance this role with an advisory position at Toyota.

“Toyota Gazoo Racing is proud to announce that Alex Wurz will take on a new role within its World Endurance Championship project,” a statement from the team read.

“Last month’s 6 Hours of Bahrain, in which Alex finished on the podium, was his final race behind the wheel. He will move into a new position as advisor and ambassador for the team.

“He will assist with driver and team development as well as promoting TOYOTA’s hybrid LMP1 technology at the race track and beyond. Already during his time as a driver with the team, Alex has made a substantial contribution in each of these areas.

“Alex will continue with various other activities, including his work in Formula 1, the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, as well as his track design and driver training business.

“Today’s announcement extends Alex’s career at TOYOTA by at least two years and recognises the significant place he has in the team’s history.”

Wurz was pleased to take up the role, saying that the end of his motorsport ventures on-track did not mark the end of them off it.

“I always intended that the end of my racing career would not be the end of my active involvement in motorsport, so I am pleased to start a new chapter in my life with TOYOTA,” Wurz said.

“We have experienced a lot together since the beginning of this project and it is exciting to be part of the team’s future. With a new car coming in 2016 and the WEC going from strength to strength, there is a lot to be excited about as we fight to reclaim our place at the front.”

Wurz turns down Manor team principal role

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Ex-Formula 1 driver and current GPDA chairman Alexander Wurz has revealed in a recent interview that he turned down the team principal role at Manor Marussia F1 Team.

Manor is currently searching for a new senior management team following the resignations of sporting director Graeme Lowdon and team principal John Booth. The duo will leave the team after the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.

On the Saturday of the Brazilian Grand Prix, the team confirmed that former McLaren sporting director Dave Ryan had joined the team with immediate effect.

Reports over the race weekend suggested that Wurz, who will retire from racing after this weekends’ FIA World Endurance Championship event in Bahrain, had been offered the role of team principal by Manor owner Stephen Fitzpatrick.

In an interview with BBC Sport, Wurz confirmed that he had been approached, but turned down the offer.

“After a period of consideration, I have informed Stephen Fitzpatrick that I have taken the decision not to make myself available to Manor,” the Austrian said.

Manor is known to be in talks with a number of candidates for the role of team principal, with the same BBC report claiming that ex-McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh had been offered the job, but had also turned it down.