Juan Pablo Montoya believes that the BMW WilliamsF1 team and he are heading in the right direction, but he's not predicting World Championships just yet. "It is early days to say if we have a chance at the championship or not," he said. The ...
Juan Pablo Montoya believes that the BMW WilliamsF1 team and he are heading in the right direction, but he's not predicting World Championships just yet.
"It is early days to say if we have a chance at the championship or not," he said.
The 16-race 2003 FIA Formula One World Championship, which includes the fourth annual United States Grand Prix on Sept. 28 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, gets underway March 9 in Australia.
This will be the third season with Williams-BMW for Montoya, who arrived in F1 after winning the 2000 Indianapolis 500 and the 1999 CART championship. Montoya finished second in the Australian Grand Prix last year behind Michael Schumacher's Ferrari. Schumacher went on to win a record 11 Grands Prix and a fifth World Championship. Montoya finished third in the Drivers Championship while Williams-BMW placed second in the Constructors Championship.
"We did not have much advantage, if any, over Ferrari at the end of the year," Montoya said. "They were as quick as us on the straights."
"But BMW have done a fantastic job so far," Montoya said of the 2003 engine, "and this year we have a lighter, more powerful, higher-revving engine. It means that BMW are going in the right direction. Williams is going in the right direction, and so is Michelin. So it is a matter of putting everything together to get the wins and to fight for the championship."
Montoya noted Michelin has made a step forward with its tires.
"At one of the (recent) tests, they put on the tire that we finished the season with, and there is a big difference," Montoya said. "It (latest tire) is a lot better."
This year's Williams FW25 is a completely new car, rooted in a concept that is not based on an evolution of the 2002 FW24 and the 2001 FW23. Unable to use much data from the old cars, the team is going through a steep learning curve to learn how the new car works.
"The car is completely different," Montoya said. "There is nothing similar to before. It is going to be a new start for Williams with this car. It is going to take a lot of work to understand what the car likes and doesn't like.
"It's up to the engineers and us to go through everything on the car and find the sweet spot of the car. The way the car likes to be; what is it like on high ride heights and low ride heights, with pitch, with no pitch. Everything is brand new."
Like the car, engine and tires, Montoya is going in the right direction and making steps forward. The team hierarchy has told both Montoya and teammate Ralf Schumacher to raise their game to be more like Michael Schumacher, who motivates the entire Ferrari team with his actions on and off the track.
"I always work as hard as I can," Montoya said. "If I tried to do something new, now it means that I wasn't trying hard enough before. I always push myself as hard as I can in every single aspect."
"Every day that I drive the car I am trying to get to a different level. I am pushing myself and pushing the team as hard as I can. If you really want to know where the limit is, you are going to make mistakes. If you don't see mistakes, it is because you are not trying hard enough: You are not trying to achieve anything else. I am happy with the way I am driving."
Just how big a step Montoya and the team have taken will only be put into context when all the competitors gather for the season opener in Australia. Ferrari and West McLaren-Mercedes will start the season with heavily modified versions of their 2002 cars.
"We are not racing against the cars that they had in (the 2002 season finale in) Japan," Montoya said. "The (interim) McLaren is quicker already in testing, so they have a big step there. Ferrari will come up with something, as well."
And it will take much of the season to see just how big a step Montoya and the rest of the Williams-BMW team have taken in context of competing for the championship against the other top teams.
Montoya believes Michael Schumacher and Ferrari will have the best chance at winning the championship again. As for the order of the rest of the drivers, Montoya said it is wide open.
"The way every thing is going you can go from Kimi (Raikkonen) to Ralf (Schumacher); anybody can do it," Montoya said. "Michael (Schumacher) has the best chance because they are there already and already have the package. McLaren's intermediate car looks strong, and the new car will probably be quick. We got a pretty good car. So it is important to at least stay second in the Constructors Championship."