by Russell Atkins

Alex Wurz said he was over the moon at having secured the third podium finish of his Formula 1 career in last weekend's Canadian Grand Prix on the tenth anniversary of his debut in the top flight - and he put his success down to his never-say-die attitude both on and off-track.

The Austrian delivered Williams' its first rostrum in more than two years in a chaotic race around Montreal's challenging Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, despite starting all the way down in 19th position on the grid and having managed to overcome an early nudge from Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Scott Speed that left his FW29 with a damaged rear wing and subsequent loss of downforce. It was a result, he admits, beyond anything he had ever dared hope for.

"I knew before the start that with a strong race - and I've had a few of them this year - I could make the points," he told Crash.net afterwards, "but I didn't really expect or even dream about finishing on the podium. It feels good and will certainly help everyone in the team.

"We decided to go for a very risky one-stop strategy which required a very precise driving style and for me to look after the tyres. It was tricky because I had the heaviest car at the start. Being a one-stop, that meant I was also very heavy during the second stint on the option tyres. They started to grain immediately after I left the pits.

"In Canada only the racing line is clean and on the marbles it's so easy to make mistakes, as we saw with so many crashes. With such a heavy car it was very difficult not to slide onto the marbles. Our strategy would only have worked on the basis of me not making any mistakes and I didn't, so I'm very happy about that.

"We calculated on the safety car for me to get into the points and it worked. I think the last safety car was just a present from someone up in heaven! That sealed third position for me. At the end I was catching Nick (Heidfeld) very quickly. He then had the graining I had already got rid of, and when you suffer with that you can hardly defend yourself."

The 33-year-old - whose family runs an international road safety training business - recently signed up to front a United Nations Road Safety Campaign, and has been a frequent and vociferous advocate of the necessity to make cars safer to drive, both on an away from the race track. Having suffered a number of high-speed accidents himself, he was particularly marked by the one that befell BMW-Sauber ace Robert Kubica in Canada.

"At the time I was ahead of him," he stated. "I came out of the hairpin and suddenly saw hundreds and thousands of small bits flying. I looked up at the big screen at the same time and saw the shunt, so I got onto the radio immediately. When you come past the scene of an accident like that for the first time you realise it was a monster shunt, and he was very lucky even to come out of it alive.

"I'm not sure what speed Robert was doing, but I know I had the fastest accident a driver has ever walked away from, with an impact of 300km/h during a test at Paul Ricard. It was a huge shunt, but I walked away from it. Motorsport is always dangerous, and things can always go wrong. I'm aware of all that but it's what I love doing.

"We see in Formula 1 how far safety can be pushed, and by contrast how passive safety in road cars can be. More than 3,000 people die in road car accidents in the world every single day. That's a horrendous figure, far too many to be acceptable. The safety we now have in Formula 1 should be and must be put into road cars too. We saw in Montreal just what type of crashes can be survived."

With the US Grand Prix at Indianapolis this coming weekend, Wurz is now keen to build on the positive momentum the team has taken away with it from Canada, and is optimistic the squad is well on-course to fighting its way back up the order following a dreadful 2006 that saw the Grove-based outfit register a mere eleven points season-long. The Williams of 2007, he stresses, is a very different place to the one of last year.

"We are slowly chipping away at everyone in front of us," he underlined, "but we are still not up with the top three. Renault in particular have made a huge step forward over the last two grands prix, so we can't stop pushing and we certainly won't. We have a really good structure of people all working together in the same direction. Everyone is there for each other and it's a very nice place to be at the moment.

"Indy will be interesting. The race is similar in terms of wing level to Montreal, but the circuit has a slightly higher natural grip level. We will use the soft and medium tyres there, rather than the super-soft ones we had here, and we will adjust the chassis balance a little bit for the track too. I think if we can squeeze it out in qualifying like (team-mate) Nico (Rosberg) did here we can get into the top ten, and if we have a good race we can score points again, but the competition in the midfield is so hard you have to do everything 100 per cent right to get points.

"Not being willing to give up is just my nature - it's how I came back to being a racing driver again from testing. You always have to push right to the end. That's how I came back into Formula 1 and it's how I will leave."

 

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