Montoya Ready To Add Second Indy Victory To Resume Talented F1 rookie could become first Indy winner in two series INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, Aug. 20, 2001 - With a victory at the 2001 SAP United States Grand Prix, Juan Pablo Montoya would set...
Montoya Ready To Add Second Indy Victory To Resume
Talented F1 rookie could become first Indy winner in two series
INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, Aug. 20, 2001 - With a victory at the 2001 SAP United States Grand Prix, Juan Pablo Montoya would set records that would be the envy of drivers around the world.
Montoya, the talented rookie driver for the BMW WilliamsF1 Team, could become the only driver to win races at the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway on both the 2.5-mile oval and 2.606-mile road course, and most impressively, the only driver to do both in his rookie year in both series.
Montoya came to the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie in 2000, driving for the Target/Chip Ganassi Racing team. It was the team's only start in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series for 2000, yet great things were expected of Montoya since he had won the CART series championship as a rookie in 1999. He far exceeded expectations by qualifying in the middle of the front row and dominating the 84th running of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" by leading 167 of 200 laps. With his historic performance, Montoya became the first rookie to win the Indianapolis 500 since Graham Hill in 1966.
But Montoya is not one to easily get caught up in the hype of an event, and he remains realistic about his opportunity to rewrite the record books at the SAP United States Grand Prix on Sept. 30.
"First off, I have to win it," said Montoya, a 25-year-old native of Bogota, Colombia. "It would be something really special. I won Indy my rookie year, and to get to win the U.S. Grand Prix my rookie year would be just fantastic. From saying it to doing it is a long way."
Montoya has yet to win a race in the 2001 Formula One World Championship, but according to many in F1 circles, he's shown amazing talent and car control in his first year in the series. He has earned two podium finishes, placing second at the Spanish and European Grands Prix, and a pole position for the German Grand Prix. Besides, it's asking a lot of a rookie to so quickly develop the skills needed to win in today's high-tech and ultra-competitive world of F1. The last driver to do so was 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve, who won four races in 1996 for Williams, the same year he finished second to veteran teammate Damon Hill in the world championship. Villeneuve would follow that stellar performance with a world championship in 1997.
But Indianapolis is a circuit where Montoya may have an edge in his quest for a first-year victory. The tight corners in the infield portion of the course require superb car control, and the oval portion of the course - the longest sustained on-throttle period of any current F1 circuit - will suit the horsepower advantage that the team's BMW engines have displayed in 2001.
"I think the circuit is pretty good," said Montoya. "I drove around when they were building it back in '99 and 2000 before the Indy 500. I know the circuit quite well in that perspective. It's a circuit where we should be very strong because I think power does count, and we've got plenty of that."
Montoya attended the inaugural SAP United States Grand Prix as a guest of Williams-BMW. Although the team has ample data from the event and Montoya was afforded full access to the team's preparation for the race, he says the many technological changes that go into Formula One cars from year to year will create setup difficulties for him.
"Every year the car is different," he said. "You've got something new in the car, so you really can't go out and say, 'Yes, I learned the setup,' because my driving style is different. But the team has a lot of data from the previous year, so we'll see how it applies."
BMW WilliamsF1 Team is having one of its most successful seasons since Villeneuve delivered the team its last world championship in 1997. Montoya's teammate, Ralf Schumacher, has won three events, at Imola, Montreal and Hockenheim, and the team is third in the Constructor's Championship, only 13 points behind McLaren with 59.
While Montoya savors the thought of a historic conquest at the SAP United States Grand Prix, he is characteristically businesslike in his outlook on the race. Now that BMW Williams F1 2001 chassis and engine combination has proven its worth, Montoya says the pressure to win will remain the same week after week.
"It's not a huge pressure," he said. "You become part of the team, and you've just got to work together to get the best out of it.
"I think we'll be quite competitive (at Indianapolis). It will take a bit of time to really get there and work with it, but from what I've seen so far I would say we're looking quite strong." ***
USGP tickets available: Tickets for the SAP United States Grand Prix on Sept. 30 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway are available by calling (800) 822-INDY or by downloading a ticket form at www.usgpindy.com.