Prior to his horrific crash at the Laustizring in Germany in 2001, which cost him both of his legs, Alex Zanardi was a man in demand.

After winning the CART championship in 1997 and 1998, he got a second shot at Formula One. Williams had been impressed by his performances over in the States, and the Italian was brought back into the F1 fold.

However, in contrast to Jacques Villeneuve's arrival from the series in 1996, which led to the F1 title in 1997, the Grove-based squad were approaching a fallow period when Alex returned to partner Ralf Schumacher in 1999. Where they had been class of the field, the season was all about re-building before linking up with BMW for 2000.

Here, writing in his autobiography, Alex Zanardi - My Story, from which has obtained permission to publish some excerpts, Alex talks about that time, which unfortunately was less than rosy and ended in tears after only one season...

"They [Williams] had made a huge investment in me and honestly, there were people inside the team who hadn't done anything to make the investment worthwhile.

"A few drivers in the team thought that CART drivers had little to offer, but over the years, they had to save face and admit that it wasn't the case. In 2001, they hired [Juan Pablo] Montoya, who Ralf Schumacher had always criticised.

"Ralf has always been horrendous to me. Unfortunately, he thinks that he destroyed me both on and off the track, but the truth is he never understood a thing. Perhaps he should have had more confidence, because he is a very good driver. However, in seeing how manipulative he was, I realised how weak he actually was. His attitude didn't influence me at all - what influenced me was the mistakes the team and I made, and my overall relationship with the team.

"Throughout this, Ralf was unbearable. He never missed the opportunity to throw salt in a wound or make sarcastic and cutting comments. He loved to say that Montoya, who was winning in CART at the time, was a 'nobody in a championship that anybody could win'. He also said that Montoya was only a test driver for Williams and not very impressive at that. James Robinson, then the chief engineer, had to explain to Schumacher that Montoya was really respected. Maybe this isn't any of my business, but I was delighted when Montoya joined the team and beat Ralf on many occasions.

"The end of 1999 had seriously compromised the situation. I was lacking the determination that had helped me persevere through other difficult times in my career. The general atmosphere also contributed to this. [Chip] Ganassi was particularly good at being supportive and exuding a particular enthusiasm. Although I can't complain about Frank Williams, I spoke to him a few times and he never complained about how much I was being paid for not doing much. I started to see in his eyes that he was questioning what 'we' were doing wrong, and by that 'we', he obviously meant 'me'.

"I left Williams without providing an answer and I still feel badly because I would have loved to have done well for him. I don't think he doubted my talent, as he was always convinced the team hadn't exploited my strengths, but I didn't find a way either. Something was missing in the magic formula, but I'm sure he was one of the few who didn't whisper: 'He won everything in America because he was racing against nobodies, but he didn't stand a chance in Formula One because all the drivers are good.'..."

Extract taken from Alex Zanardi - My Story courtesy of Haynes Publishing. Copyright: Alex Zanardi and Gianluca Gasparini 2004.

Alex Zanardi - My Story is available in all good book stores now, priced ?18.99. Alex's autobiography is also available in the shop, in the book section.