Alex Wurz had admitted that it is perhaps a little too cute to have scored a podium on the tenth anniversary of his Formula One debut, but insisted that he would take the honour after a tough start to his race return with Williams.

The Austrian received the call to join Benetton a decade ago and, having served time as a dedicated tester with McLaren and Williams in recent years, jumped at the chance to rejoin the fray in 2007. However, the opening five races have not been kind to Wurz, with only seventh in Monaco to show after poor qualifying efforts, and Canada appeared to be in line for more of the same after Saturday.

Only 20th on the grid after admitting to not getting the most of the Toyota-powered FW29 in the first round if qualifying, he was then savaged by Scott Speed's Toro Rosso on lap nine, losing part of his right rear wing endplate in the collision. However, with no fewer than four safety car periods and some canny fuel management from the Williams team, he found himself in fourth place as the field was given its final green flag.

When Rubens Barrichello was forced to give up a similar strategy for a 'splash and dash', Wurz moved into third and, contrary to the belief that he too would have to stop, began to reel in the tyre-limited Nick Heidfeld. In the end, the Williams pilot did not have enough time to make up another position, but he admitted that, after all that had gone before, he was happy just to have made the top three.

"It's still a dream," he confessed, "I had a difficult weekend, never found the rhythm but, hey, if you just keep pushing...

"I've showed the whole year that I'm a strong racer. Today, I was a bit lucky as well. I was just keeping the pace all the time on the option tyres, out for very long, but the car was running fine, no problems and I made no mistakes, so I'm very pleased to bring that third place home."

Wurz admitted that the wing damage had hampered his performance.

"I had a collision with one of the Toro Rossos" he confirmed, "He tried a manoeuvre, touched my rear wing and I saw that part of the endplate was broken. It cost me a lot of top speed, so I was a bit like fish food out there when Kovalainen passed me on the straight. I think I lost about six or seven km/h top speed, but the wing structure was intact. They checked it at my one stop so I could just push right to the end."

The Austrian was the only driver to make the 70-lap distance on one stop for fuel and tyres, and he admitted later that it had not been a pleasurable experience running a car on the option tyre for so long.

"To be honest, it was hell," he grimaced, "Thank God for the safety cars, because the tyres just grained to bits.

"We said let's go for this one. The first stint was interrupted with all the safety cars and, at one point, I was already sixth to fifth. Then I was back in 18th, but the one stop was quite critical. When we put the option tyre on, because with the heavy fuel, the car was just sliding all over the place, especially off-line. It is so difficult not to make a mistake, and I had to draw on all my experience not to crash it or make a mistake.

"What I did, tactically, was I really scraped the tyres as much as I could, just to get rid of the graining quickly and that was very important because, in the end, I had Kovalainen behind me on the prime tyre. But then my tyres cleaned up and I could control the pace. I actually got close to Nick, but there weren't enough laps. However, I'm super happy with third, exactly on my tenth year anniversary. It's a bit kitsch, but I'll take it."

 

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