Despite being expected to remain with Williams in a development capacity, Alex Wurz will instead represent the Honda camp in this year's Formula One world championship, having agreed to fill the team's vacancy as test and reserve driver.

The Austrian announced his retirement from F1 racing after last year's Japanese Grand Prix, but had been expected to retain a testing role at Grove which he could perhaps combine with a return to sportscar competition. However, Wurz will now take his significant experience to Honda, where he will replace countryman Christian Klien link up with renowned engineer and tactician Ross Brawn as the Brackley team attempts to rebuild after a disastrous 2007 campaign.

The 33-year old is considered to be one of the best development drivers in Formula One and will share track testing responsibilities with race drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, forming the most experienced line-up currently competing in Formula One. Despite his post-Fuji announcement, Wurz will also attend all of this season's races as reserve driver, and could yet add to his 69 grand prix starts should either Button or Barrichello be ruled out by illness or injury.

"We are delighted to welcome Alex to the Honda Racing F1 Team, and very pleased to have secured one of the most experienced development drivers in Formula One to support our race pairing," team principal Brawn commented, "Alex has eleven years of top level experience in the sport and this depth and breadth of knowledge will prove invaluable to us as we aim to make Honda a competitive force in 2008.

"Alex will spend his first Honda test familiarising himself with our team and the RA107 before moving on to play a crucial role in the track development of the new RA108 car. We are looking forward to working closely with him over the coming months."

That first test will be in Valencia from Tuesday 22 January, with Wurz joining Button and Barrichello for the team's first test of the year. He will spend the test getting used to the team, its systems and last year's RA107 in order to provide a reference for his own development role. The race drivers will be at the wheel of the team's new RA108 challenger, which will run in its interim colours in advance of 'a technical and livery launch' in Brackley on 29 January.

"I am delighted to be joining the Honda Racing F1 Team at the beginning of what I hope can be a very exciting period for the team," Wurz admitted, "Honda has such a rich history of success in motorsport and it is a real honour to be part of a team that has racing right at the core of its operation. This is an excellent opportunity to play an important role in the development of the team going forward. My three previous teams have all been world championship winners and I hope to be able to contribute to Honda's ambitions.

"The chance to work with one of the best brains in F1 in Ross Brawn is very exciting, as is the level of resources that the Honda team has at its disposal. I am also looking forward to working with Jenson and Rubens, two drivers who I know very well, and I'm sure we will form a very successful partnership over the coming weeks. For now though, my immediate focus is on getting back in a Formula One car in Valencia and starting work with the team."

 

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