One of the most popular McLaren drivers of recent years, Wurz fulfilled the valued role of test and reserve driver from 2001 to 2005 with the team in between race driving stints for Benetton and Williams. The taste for competitive sports ran in the Wurz family blood, his father Franz winning the European Rallycross Championship on no fewer than three occasions.
Alex followed his father into motorsport through karting, then Formula Ford and through into the German F3 championship in 1993. Stints in DTM and sports car racing followed and in 1996 he became the youngest ever winner of the Le Mans 24-hour race, a distinction he retains to this day.
In 1997 he was signed as reserve driver for the Benetton F1 squad, finishing third at Silverstone on only his third race as stand-in for the unwell Gerhard Berger. In 1998 he signed for Benetton as one of the fulltime race drivers, a role he retained alongside Giancarlo Fisichella for the next three seasons. Unfortunately Alex’s time at Benetton disappointingly delivered much less than he had expected. He memorably held second place ahead of Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari at Monaco in 1998 only for the two cars to collide, the Benetton suffering broken suspension which caused Wurz to crash heavily coming out of the tunnel.
Unable to find a seat with a leading team, Wurz accepted an invitation to become McLaren’s third driver. He was the favoured stand-by driver, but had to wait until the 2005 San Marino GP at Imola to have his first and only drive for the team, handling the challenge superbly to finish fourth, which was promoted to a podium-placing third after the BAR-Honda cars were disqualified. What made this a particularly impressive performance as his tall frame did not comfortably fit into the McLaren chassis and at times had to drive with one hand.
At the start of 2006, Wurz switched to the Williams team as their official reserve and test driver, then succeeded Mark Webber as a fulltime member of the race team alongside Nico Rosberg for 2007. At the end of the year the popular Wurz announced his retirement from F1, very honestly citing doubts about his continuing competitive commitment.