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Williams hires Alex Wurz to mentor drivers
Posted By: James Allen  |  20 Feb 2012   |  8:38 pm GMT  |  60 comments

An interesting move today was made by Williams, which is going into the season with Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna as its drivers.

The pair have just 45 Grands Prix starts between them and Williams clearly feels that it will be advantageous to have an experienced head like Wurz in the garage, as a driver mentor. The Austrian, who runs his own driver coaching business called Test & Training International, masterminds the FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy, now in its second year.

Wurz, who took three podiums in his 69 race F1 career, will attend the races this season and will start his work at the forthcoming Barcelona test.

This concept of driver mentoring has been done before. Alain Prost briefly served a similar role at McLaren in the 1990s with Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard, while Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo pulled in Niki Lauda on a couple of occasions to act as a driver mentor.

“I grew up in a family business of driver training and naturally I enjoy helping fellow athletes to operate at their best,” said Wurz. “I’m really looking forward to using my expertise to help Williams at this important stage in its history.”

The team also announced recently that former Olympic gold medal winning athlete Michael Johnson has been hired to get the team in shape and help with pit stop performance.

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Good move by Williams in my view – Wurz is known to the team and has good form in the driver coaching area, so anything he can bring to the table will be a benefit. All the same – and this may just be me being cynical, I admit – I can’t help but feel this may be a sign of Williams realising letting Barrichello go was a bit of a mistake. Otherwise, you would have thought this would have been sorted out before testing started and not after…


Mentoring is such an important part in anything one does at a professional level, not just sports. Look at what happened to Hamilton when his father/mentor was not around for him.

Wurz is a cool guy and friendly man, he’ll do well at Williams.


Good move.

It’s been previously discussed how people in other sports have personal coaches and I think Wurtz has the racing AND coaching experience to make it work in F1.


I remember Peter Windsor, in his usually excellent columns in F1 Racing in the 1990s – 2000s wondering no top drivers took this option; I reckon it’s a great idea. For what it’s worth, I recommend the Simon Taylor interview with Wurz from ‘Motorsport’ last year, he’s amazingly humble and self effacing for a racing driver. A clear thinker, and if any driver pairing needs all the help they can get, it’s the Williams pair.


I think this is a good move by the new management of Williams, pit they didn’t have better drivers to mentor. As for some people saying “Why are they picking Wurz?

What has he done?” Well, you could say, that he got screwed out of his peak years in his career by Briatore, and was effectively cold shouldered out of Benetton, and having to bite the bullet and take the testing role at McLaren.

In my opinion, I have always thought that Wurz was a great RACE driver, the only thing that let him down was his qualifying.


I’ve always rated Alex as a driver and good guy, but this smacks as a PR exercise to cover up the fact that they know it could be a disaster with two novices, even if the car is better than last year.

They’re trying to plug the gap left by Rubens and I don’t think this will be enough. Rubens may be one of the older drivers on the grid, whilst not a champion he hadn’t lost his speed unlike Trulli appeared to have done.

Would like to see Williams succeed but Rubens was good enough to be retained.


Sorry But if there is a need for that job at Williams (if available) Jacques Villeneuve is the most suitable man for that job. Feel he would bring a lot to the team in the simulator etc too.


Was Rubens not an option then…? Clearly he prefers to drive, or maybe too expensive?


f1 driver coach?? they (bruno and pastor) are way past coaching age now… i dont see how this will make them better


Glad to hear this news from Williams F1. Best of luck to them and hope to see them move back to where they belong at the front.


I think some people are selling Alex Wurz a bit short here. OK, his tally of podiums / wins in F1 doesn’t put him alongside the likes of Prost. But his racing experience, track knowledge, natural talent, motivation, communication skills and intelligence are all notable amongst his qualities, and will all be hugely helpful to Williams’ relatively inexperienced driver line-up. Had Wurz had a seat in a top team then who knows what his record would show… as it was the top teams always seemed too mindful of his biggest flaw as an F1 driver: he was always just too damned tall.

To those knocking Wurz I’d point out that there’s a lot of respect for him up-and-down the F1 pitlane, and in the world of F1 respect has to be earned.


I love Williams, big fan… But… Maybe they need to hire Adrian Newey to coach the desing team… Just saying LOL


If top golfers & tennis players can have coaches, why not drivers. Maybe Wurz was not the most successful driver, but he can maybe see where others are going wrong and point it out. I seem to recall a comment from an Engineer to Grosjean when at Renault about trailing too much brake. He simply said that was how he drove, or similar comment. Not’ok I’ll look at getting rid of that trait’. If he’d listened maybe he’d still have had a drive in 2011.

The Michael Johnson bit, well I suppose he knows about the training required for the few seconds exertion required in a pit stop. So maybe some better exercises for that could be developed. Hmm, sceptical though.

I do hope Williams do start to bother the Lotus and Merc’s some time soon and not as back markers and being lapped…


Good post. I’m liking the style of this “New Williams” company. Very proactive – getting back on their ball, etc. Looking forward to seeing their pit-stop times, hope that helps their overall game plan. Good luck all.


This seems like a fantastic move. Some of you may be criticising the choice of ex driver, but not only does Wurz own his own company, that is specifically for driver training, upon hearing him speak and discuss racing he is an immensely level headed and thoughtful man.

I don’t think they have hired Wurz to discuss race craft and ability, but more to nurture these two young men down the immense path that is F1. Pressure is an odd thing. When you are feeling good, pressure can drive you to become better than you ever believed, but if you are down, it will push you further down. Wurz is in a position to point these two in the right direction. Hamilton could do with someone like that in his camp, to make sure his mind is in the right frame.


What does Michael Johnston know about F1 pit stops?

He’s fast, yes; but not as fast as Donovan Bailey!


Being fast on the track doesn’t necessarily translate into being a coach with good communication and mentoring skills. 🙂


Michael Johnson studied and designed a lot of ‘critical movement sequencing’ techniques. For instance he learnt how to minimize the number of moves required to perform just about any action for his centre. They even teach bodyguards how to unholster a gun quickly with the least effort to speed reaction times. I think he’ll be able to help the pit crews enormously.

Red Bulls pit crews used many of the same techniques pioneered by johnsons performance centre already.

Admittedly if their car is three seconds slower it’s not going to make much difference but I guess trying to shore up every thing is better than just giving up for them!


Its good to know that Williams is aware of its problems and doing something tangible to solve them. I think that their driver lineup is the worst in the field even if I secretly root for the Senna name. Anyway I’m sure Bruno will take complete advantage of Wurz expertise and also that the team will start showing better pit times. It’s crunch time for Senna and Williams! Thats why it’ll be fun to keep an eye on the team this season.


Bit harsh to say worst line up when its hard these days to grade car/driver driver quality through the whole grid. Bottom 10 drivers between the pair of them at least anyway would be a far fairer assessment would it not?

Think to a great extent people rate the Williams car as being better than it actually just down to history, and that’s even taking into account its not what it once was!


I can understand having Prost as a mentor, also I can accept Montezemolo as a mentor & seeing as their protèges went on to do good, I would say, the mentors did well but hell, Wurz???

Three podium scoring Wurz??? Again Williams aren’t aiming very high are they!

It seems they don’t have enough faith in their pay drivers’ talent to even score mere points & thus had to draft in Wurz to help in that department.

Oh well, at least they’re trying & I think the Michael Johnson inclusion in the team is rather promising & I will be interested in seeing if he can really help the pit stop lads improve their times.


My prediction for Williams in 2012 is that they are to finish behind Caterham in the WCC.


Yip this was my comments/thoughts on here a few weeks ago. I really think Williams are in a very bad way going into the future. Should have sold out to BMW some time back with knowledge/staff back then and the financial clout of BMW in the sport back then who knows!? Reckon it would be one of Franks biggest regrets now


who knows? Peter Sauber knows.


yeah but to be fair back at the time when BMW created links with Williams Williams were a far better team experience success and staff level wise than the Sauber team when BMW took them over so it would near certainly have been a different story for sure.


I could make a long list of the top coaches who were never great performers, but I won’t.

What I will say is that to be a good coach especially in an individual discipline, requires an absence of ego that former superstars often lack.

Wurz has a record of being a team player and through hours of testing and racing he will be able to offer advice on how to prepare mentally and physically.


Wurz has had an driving amazing career, admitedly away from F1 mostly, but is most noted for his work on training and education of drivers and youngsters….. so in that respect, he is probably the most qualified of all the likely candidates, and therefor this is a bit of a coup for Williams!

Also, when did anyone say anything abou Montezemelo as a mentor? James said he USED a mentor for drivers, he wasnt a mentor himself


What’s the point of hiring a world-champion winning mentor. Williams are clearly aiming for the mid field at best this season and, seeing as that’s where Wurz spent most of his career, he’s probably an ideal candidate to coach them!


a lot of the best football coaches were not the best players.


I dont think you get the meaning of a mentor or you would not be so flippent to Alex,

Driver mentoring is all about getting the driver focused on the coming races and to use any errors in past races as learning and not to dwell on them

to help sharpen their minds and assist them in setting up the car with the mechanics so all infomation is crystal clear

it has nothing todao with teaching them how to drive but to help them focus the mind in a positive way

PS James

Can you kindly confirm this or correct me



It’s a combination of both, there is a lot of scientific analysis of performance data etc, cornering, analysis of style, turn in, mid corner, corner exit and so on.

But mainly it’s a head game, yes.


Wurz the BMX champ, Le Mans 34 hours winner?

He’s pretty nifty.

Oh and by your argument, no-one could be Novak Djokovich’s tennis coach because no-one is better. The point of a coach or mentor is not to be better (if that was the case, you would just hire the mentor to do the job), the job of the mentor is to unlock the performance of those they are mentoring.


34? Am I mad? I blame the iPhone but the fault lies with me. 24 hours 😉


You misread the post. Lucca Di Montezemolo hired Niki Lauda as a mentor a few times. He didn’t mentor drivers himself.


What?-has someone got to be great at something to be a good coach/mentor?I dont remember Alex Ferguson or Jose Mourinho being particularly great footballers but they make great coaches…Wurz may not have set the world alight in F1 but he’s intelligent and well thought of inside F1…oh yea and he’s won Le Mans twice…!


I suppose as wurz runs a specific driver training programme and the most successful young driver initiative in the sports history he’s obviously given some credit by some people.

The thing with mentors and coaches is often the most skilled competitors aren’t the best teachers. Having a talent for driving doesn’t mean you possess the talent of coaching.

In many other sports the best coaches are not automatically the highest scoring/most successful athletes.

Martin brundle isn’t the greatest driver ever but he has a talent for explanation that supersedes his (not inconsiderable) driving skill and passion.


Those that can do. Those that can not teach.


Whichever team they support first, every British F1 fan must surely be hoping that it finally comes good for Sir Frank after the Team’s seemingly relentless slide towards the back of the grid in recent years.

Can they turn it round in 2012 ?

I really hope so.

If not, they will be finishing behind Caterham.


As DC and Mika Hakkinen have previously had a driver mentor in Alain Prost I would love to see comments from the two of them on the value of such a role to inexperienced drivers! James any chance you can get those comments? Wurz is not exactly Alain Prost or Niki Lauda is he! I am guessing that DC (Red Bull and TV) and Mika Hakkinen (Mercedes) had other commitments they could not fill the role. Surely Nick Heidfeld would have been a better option of a driver who knows recent F1 cars? But this surely points out the folly of two pay drivers? And Wurz is a band aid on that problem that does not have all the adhesive one might desire to aid in healing the wound?


I think Nick Heidfeld would ‘wearly swuggle’ to be taken too ‘searweously’ as a ‘dwiver’ coach. It’s not that Wurz is just an available ‘recent’ driver, it’s that he actually has form in this particular sphere.


To Adam: A coach is a teacher. The best at anything are not necessarily the best to teach it. Many great teachers were never great discoverers and many excellent coaches were never top level athletes. Different skill sets.


DC hated Prost being there and said he only did it so he could work out how Ron Dennis was running the team prior to setting up his own team. I think one specific example was that they were testing a short wheel base car in ’96 that the race drivers were sure was the wrong direction, but that Prost kept saying had “Potential” to keep himself active in the development/research…


Hi James,

Athletes in nearly every form of sport have coaches, why not in F1?


I did a post on that in 2010 as I recall


Always liked Wurz and rated him. He did a great job in 07 against Rosberg, even getting a podium. Why did he retire half way through thr season? What’s the story!


I think he lost his edge because of his Monaco crash, it all seemed to go a bit down hill for him from then on.


I’m not saying this is the whole reason by any means, but one problem Alex had was – simply being very tall!! He was therefore an ‘excess weight problem’ that compromised the car set-ups!


Yep, same reason I wasn’t an astronaut!

You need to be jockey-sized!


I remember him refusing to let Schumacher past in Monaco in his rookie year [unless my memory is at fault].

He was definitely a more promising prospect then some others who went on to achieve more. Why he didn’t I can’t say exactly, possibly bad luck playing a large part.

Seems a highly intelligent fair minded guy, and maybe he could take over from Charlie as top steward one day in the distant future


And this move follows Sir Jackie’s concept of having driver coaches. Sounds to me like a very sound move. Let’s see how it works out.


Could you tell me how to get in contact with you Mr Allen


I guess this is a sign of the new regime making Williams a more up to date and modern organisation.

I am sure if Patrick Head was still there a ” you must be flipping joking, Alan Jones and Nigel Mansell never needed a mentor” would have been the response in a very loud voice.

Modern times need modern methods, lets see what happens.

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