Guest: Juan Pablo Montoya, BMW WilliamsF1 team MODERATOR: Good morning. My apology, first of all, for being 10 minutes late. If Mr. Montoya was driving the car, I'm sure he would have made it here on time. MONTOYA: I wasn't.
Guest: Juan Pablo Montoya, BMW WilliamsF1 team
MODERATOR: Good morning. My apology, first of all, for being 10 minutes late. If Mr. Montoya was driving the car, I'm sure he would have made it here on time.
MONTOYA: I wasn't. (Laughter)
MODERATOR: Good morning to everyone. My name is Roy Oliemuller. I'm with the corporate communications group of BMW of North America. On behalf of BMW and the BMW Williams Formula One Team, we'd like to thank our hosts here from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for making this possible this morning.
As you all know, it's been a difficult couple of weeks for all of us. We personally grieve for the loss of one of our own employees from BMW and all the additional individuals that were unfortunately lost in this senseless attack in New York. But at this point we all know that the world will move on; and this is really not a shameless comment, it's more or less a comment on our spirit.
This morning we'll have an opportunity to answer some questions from you and you can direct questions to Mr. Montoya. Afterward, we'll head over to the museum on the track grounds, and we'll have an opportunity to do a photo shoot there. And to let you know, after lunch we'll be heading over to the Methodist Hospital where Juan Pablo will be making a brief appearance in the children's ward. After that we'll be heading over to Nordstrom's for an introduction to his new apparel line. You're welcome to join us at that point, and we'll give you some more information shortly.
I'd like to introduce a couple of individuals, part of our team that has been able to make this possible. The first is Mr. Eric Powell over here from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Media Center.
Next, Guido Stalmann from the BMW Motorsports, the technical communications group. I can't see, but Ann Bradshaw from the Williams team right next to him. If you have any specific questions that any one of us can answer, please feel free to just ask us as necessary. As you're all aware, Mr. Montoya is no stranger to the Indianapolis Speedway, having won the 500 during his rookie year and now coming off of his fabulous victory in Italy. We have another opportunity to make history here if he can achieve a victory at the track, be able to do it both on the road course and on the oval.
I'm going to open this up now to questions and, Juan, if you would, you need a microphone, I think, here. First of all, how does it feel, number one, to be back to Indianapolis and the upcoming race?
MONTOYA: I think it's nice to be back in Indy, back in America. I have really good memories from Indianapolis. My old team was based here and everything. So it's not only about the Indy 500 but everybody that I worked with the past two years. So it's a pretty good race. I think it's going to be an interesting race for us, and hopefully we're going to get quite a good result out of it.
MODERATOR: I'd like to open it up to questions.
Q: Juan, I believe Patrick Head was quoted over here as saying you had to make an adjustment in Formula One realizing that every lap is an all-out sprint. Is it really more intense every lap than CART racing was, and is it more intense than the Indy 500 that you had to run to win here?
MONTOYA: Well, the Indy 500, and starting with the Indy 500 is completely different races. Being the Indy 500, it's a long race, it's a 500-mile race. You have to take care of the car most of the race and everything. You try to sprint right at the end. Especially mine, it was quite, you know, all the race, the pace was quite hard, and it was a quite interesting race. I think the biggest adjustment I had to make was really to getting hands with the car, to really work with the team to try to maximize what I needed on the setup. When the setup has been right, we've been competitive. I could term the last year of races, we definitely decided to get it together, decided to get the best out of the car. It's been quite difficult. It's been quite hard. It's a lot of work. I think the biggest problem is when we get into the tracks because I've never been there before, the starting setup is completely, you know, is too far away from where we want to be. It seems quite hard.
Q: Juan, our memories of you is how hard you drove into the first turn in the race here going south. Now you're going to drive into the first turn going the other way. What are your thoughts about that?
MONTOYA: I think it's going to be -- I haven't driven an oval in a while, nearly a year. I think it's going to be quite interesting actually, you know, getting the banking. The pits are a bit different because when we're in the banking we're just starting to build up the speed. You know, you're going 250, 300 clicks, kilometers through there, and it's quick. But the car could take a lot more. So, you know, from what I heard, Turn 1 (of the oval, Turn 13 on the road circuit) is not that difficult, flat. It looks quite extreme, but it's not that difficult. I think it's going to be quite good memories, especially on race day with everybody here. I came here last year to watch, and there was a lot of people here, and hopefully this year we get the same crowd.
Q: Juan, do you feel like you've had to improve your driving skills since going to Formula One?
MONTOYA: No, it's not about improvement. You know, every time you're out there, you're learning something new. So you always evolving and become a better driver. I wouldn't say -- you know, every time you're out there you've got to push harder and harder if you want to become better. I couldn't go and say, you know, I wasn't pushing before when I was here. I think I had to push on my limits all the time to be able, you know, when I won the championship here, when I won the Indy 500, I was good at everything. Now you have to do that every week. With Formula One, you test so much, you drive so much the cars, everybody does that. To really be in a competitive level, you've got to try to do a better job than the rest. That's the only way to win.
Q: Juan, you talked about the difference in the way the car handles in pushing the car, but in your first year in F1, off the track, on the track, what things have really jumped out and surprised you as far as things maybe you did not anticipate or did not expect in this racing series?
MONTOYA: I think the most difficult thing is getting the car right. With slick tires when I was in CART and everything, you can -- even if the car is not perfect, you can get a really good lap out of the car. You can overpush the car a little bit. With the grooved tires in the Formula One, you know, if the setup is wrong, the tires after two corners they grain or, you know, they lose grip really quick so you need to have a really nice balance in the car to work, so it works together with you. You know, it's a bit more complex.
Q: Juan, you easily could have gone to Formula One after your Formula 3000 championship but do you think the two years in CART, what would you say the two years in CART has helped you with this particular season or is there any help?
MONTOYA: Oh, yeah, there's been a lot of help in both my confidence by winning races here, you know, doing well, you know. I really enjoyed the two years I spent here, you know, driving. I learned a lot of new things in the ovals, that if you didn't race the ovals you're never going to get the experience. It's a lot of stuff like that really makes a big difference. I think the other thing that has helped me, you know, I had such a tough year last year with all the problems. You know, I had like 15 DNF's last year, and this year, you know, hasn't been much better. I finished four races or something. So all those DNF's, just for myself mentally, I have became so much stronger that when it happened, it wasn't something new for me. I think if you're coming from winning everything and never fails, never fails and so on, you get in a car that is going to break, it's really hard. You know, I think the team has evolved a lot this year, and now the car has become a lot more reliable. But we had, you know, quite a few races that we struggled, and it was breaking with silly things, but it's getting better.
Q: Juan, Frank Williams has presided over the resurgence of this team. Several times in the past it would be down and then come back up. As this team and you and your results have improved this season, have you seen a difference in Frank? Is he just a person who's always positive and excited or is he a little more excited right now because of the resurgence of the team?
MONTOYA: I think Frank, when we started the season, normally -- you know, he's been here so long, he really knows this is going to be a good year, this is going to be a bad year. You know, I think initially we didn't really expect, you know, we were going to win races maybe or it was going to be very difficult. But, you know, the team got four wins, three poles, four poles, as well. So I think as a team to start, you know, I think they're moving forward, and I think next year is going to be very competitive. I think next year's car, with all the package and everything, the tires are going to be better, the next year's engine should be better, as well. If all the package improves, what it should do, we should be able to fight for the championship.
Q: Juan, when you got over to Formula One, did you set your sights immediately that you wanted to challenge Michael Schumacher?
MONTOYA: To be honest with you, I never really think about Michael Schumacher when I went into Formula One. I went to Formula One because I wanted to do it. First thing you've got to think about is yourself, not somebody else. If my sights were on Michael Schumacher or somebody, then I wouldn't have been thinking about driving the car. So what I did was just went in and it took me really a while to, you know, it's like a bit up and down, up and down. But to get completely in the groove of the car and everything and the series and working with the team, it took me awhile. You know, if you really think about doing yourself the best job you can, the results will come, you know. I've been able to beat Michael quite a few occasions in my first season, and the guy is a tough racer, but I consider myself one, as well.
Q: Last year, even when you were having problems with the Toyotas, you were still always running fast at the front of the field. How difficult was it this year to have to deal with sometimes not being as fast as your teammate? Mentally how was it to deal with that?
MONTOYA: Coming to Formula One I knew was going to be a very hard learning curve in particular. The guy has been -- this is his third season with the team, five years in Formula One. He's got so much more experience in the grooved tires and Formula One. He really understands how everything works. So it was going to be tough. I knew it was going to be very hard to try to beat him. Last few races I have been a lot more competitive than him, and that's quite encouraging. I think this is good because he races his game, I race mine and he races his. We've just been improving. The way we're pushing each other, we're pushing the team forward as well. Because I think the way we're pushing each other is in a positive way. A lot of people would say they don't talk, they don't do, but I don't think you need to talk to -- you know, when we sit down with the engineers, we discuss about the car, we work together the way we need to do, so the team improves. I don't think we're taking anything away from the team. I think, actually, the way we're working we're giving quite a lot of good things for the team.
Q: Juan, several people in Formula One and some drivers had concerns about coming here to the United States at this time. Were you at all worried? Was it a worry for you to come here?
MONTOYA: Not really, no. You know, I thought it was very sad what happened, but, you know, the way I look at it, you know, you can't really stop life. I think coming here to the race and everything, you're actually going to take the mind away of the people and give them something to cheer about and forget about what everything that happened a couple of days.
Q: Could I just clarify something? Michael Schumacher's efforts to get all the other drivers to drive, you know, safely in the first couple of chicanes, it was said there was only one driver that disputed that. Did you disagree with that or did you agree with him?
MONTOYA: I agree with that because after all the incidents that happened, it was quite clear we didn't -- and basically what happened the year before, it was quite clear that we didn't want to, you know, throw out half of the field in the first corner. Even if nobody at the end managed to agree to that, I think in my personal opinion that everybody was a lot more conscious about it. There was only one guy that, you know, two guys that touched. Apart from that it was a clean start. I think if nobody would race at point, everybody would just go completely nuts into Turn 1. I thought it was quite good.
Q: Did it offend your sensibilities as a racer?
MONTOYA: No, one thing is being a racer, another thing is being -- I don't know how to say it in decent words, basically. We're racers, we're there to race. But you've got to be sensible about what you're doing, you know. I think even, as I said, I think even if everybody didn't agree to it, when it actually happened, I think everybody was very conscious about it.
Q: Juan, you've always been able to stay focused in the cockpit no matter what kind of race car you've been in. But given this season at this point in your rookie season in Formula One, what would be the biggest surprise you've had up to this point, either a positive or negative surprise?
MONTOYA: Well, positive surprise is all the poles I've done so far and the win. I didn't really expect my first season to win. I think negative is the atmosphere is so different that it really took me awhile to like get in the groove of it. Because the atmosphere is a lot more tense, you've got to be a lot stronger mentally. I think I consider myself quite strong mentally, and it didn't really affect me. But it took me a while to really focus in the car in what I had to do. It really drives your mind away a little bit.
Q: Juan, we know the physical challenges that every driver has to go through, but in the F1 level is there a different level of mental toughness outside the car as well as inside?
MONTOYA: Mentally it's a lot stronger. You've got to be a lot stronger than CART because in CART the atmosphere is a lot more friendlier. In the car is very similar, you know. In the car you've got to push the car to its limits, both cars are very physically; but outside, I think outside the car, you know, you see in CART everybody talks to everybody, everybody is friendly. Here you don't even cross a word with anybody. You're there by yourself, and you've got to work with the people around you, you know. I think in a series like this, I think the team is a very important asset.
Q: Juan, I know you've not obviously raced on the circuit across the street. Have you driven even a passenger car on it?
MONTOYA: Yeah, when they were building the circuit before the race when I was here for the Indy 500. I went with Tony George around the track, and he showed me.
Q: How about from a team feedback perspective? Obviously, the team was here a year ago. What do you see as the challenging as aspects of that circuit?
MONTOYA: I think it's a big compromise between a lot of slow corners and very long straights. There's going to be a big compromise of how much downforce you run. With the downforce, you can make a lot of time in the infield, but then you're going to be box slow down the straight. So it's going to be a big compromise of what you do in the race.
Q: Some circuits the team may test a lot on before it actually races there. This one is not necessarily that case. How difficult does that make then the transition on race day or does it at all? Is the practice time you get leading up to it enough?
MONTOYA: I think practice time becomes a bit tougher because I don't know the circuit. In a way, I'm not so far behind everybody because they only race here once. Nobody tested before. They came here, and they raced once. The tires change a lot to understand, so I'm going to be like a step behind; but if I can make enough ground in the first few sessions, we should be OK.
Q: Juan, you talked about the mental toughness and the changes and the elevation in the concentration that's necessary. At any point thus far, have you ever sat back and had any regrets about jumping into F1?
MONTOYA: No, because that's what I wanted to do. All my life since I remember as a kid I dreamed of being in Formula One. I had a great opportunity to come to Williams and, you know, with BMW and Michelin involved in it, it was a great -- you know, you could tell the team wanted to move forward. And the way it's been looking, we've evolved a lot. Those opportunities, they don't come every day. That's what I wanted to do. I came to America, achieved what I wanted to achieve and more, you know. In the few, only in the two years I was here, I think I achieved a lot of stuff. You know, won CART championship, rookie of the year, rookie of the year in Indy, won Indy. I thought you can stay here and do those records even greater, yeah, or you can move yourself into Formula One, and it would be a new task and a new challenge. I decided that was the best way.
Q: Given that compromise you spoke about of the track here, should we still expect you and Ralf to be the guys to beat?
MONTOYA: I think from what we saw last year, Ferrari is quite strong here. I think the question mark on Friday is how the tires are going to behave compared, you know, Michelin and Bridgestone. That's going to be a question mark, and that's going to be a bit of a decider to say who, you know. If the Michelin tires are really good, we're definitely going to be really competitive, and we have a chance to win. If what happens, for example, what happened in Silverstone this year, we're not going to have a chance. But I think the tires have evolved so much. You look at Spa, it was cold weather, and we were quick. We'll see. We'll see how it plays.
Q: A lot of drivers in Formula One have big reputations. Now that you've run against a lot of them, are most of the guys worthy of these reputations or have you found some guys are overrated in the end when you go wheel to wheel with them?
MONTOYA: I don't know, it's difficult to say. I think there's really good drivers there. They're considered to be the best drivers in the world. Michael (Schumacher), you know, Michael is a very tough guy. He's been there for a long time, he's very experienced. Apart from the guy being so long here, the guy is really quick, and he's got a great team behind him, as well. So I think at the moment that's the guy to beat. When we get the right equipment, you've got to go against him and anybody else that is quick.
Q: Juan, kind of following up on something you talked before about your experience in CART last year compared to this, you had a good relationship with Jimmy (Vasser) on the old team. How would you compare the season thus far in relationship driver to driver with your teammate?
MONTOYA: It's different. With Jimmy we were like friends. You know, we're friends, and he was a great guy, and we had a lot of fun together. With Ralf it is a bit different. We're very professional. He does his job, I do mine. As I said before, we work together in the car with the engineers and what we need to work together on to make the car go quick. Because I don't talk to the guy or he doesn't talk to me doesn't mean that we're going to slow down the car because of the attitude. You've got to be professional what you're doing, and that's what we're doing. We're doing a professional relationship.
Q: You've raced on ovals, and you've won on ovals, and you've crashed on ovals, also. I'm just curious in light of (Alex) Zanardi's terrible accident, could you see on racing on ovals again?
MONTOYA: I don't know. If I would come back to CART, I would. But at the moment I'm in Formula One, and I think I'll hopefully be here for quite awhile.
Q: Juan, you started here going down the straight away for the green flag at, you know, hitting close to 200 miles an hour. You go from a dead start in Formula One. How do you compare the two starts?
MONTOYA: With a rolling start it's in a way, it's just a bit different. You know, you're going to get to the first corner sometimes a bit quicker but you're going to have -- you know, because you're rolling, you're going to have a bit more temperature in the brakes, a bit more temperature in the tires. So it's just different styles. At the end of the day, it's a start, and you've got to try to get the best out of it. It's not such a big difference. Now with Formula One with the launch control, you know, what really counts is the reaction time of the driver.
Q: Juan, the BMW engines have had a pretty good advantage it seems at least in terms of horsepower at some of the faster tracks. This track's combination of fast and slow, do you think you still have an advantage overall here?
MONTOYA: In my personal view, I don't think we have a massive -- I think the engine is as competitive as anyone in the top, you know, I would say is one of the best engines if not the best, yeah. But I wouldn't say, you know, the engine has got 50-horsepower more than anybody else. I think the engine is very strong. The Williams chassis is very efficient in the way, in the aerodynamics. In a fast track, we've got a really good package. What it looks like, the Ferrari cars has a bit more drag in their car; but, as you can see, they're as quick also down the straight. So it's different packages, and I think this year Ferrari had a bit better, you know, compromise than us. Basically we need to try to improve for next year. But, you know, I would say we do have one of the best engines, if not the best. It's going to play into our hands a little bit because you don't have to sacrifice so much, you know, downforce to go quick down the straight. I think we can stick with quite a lot of downforce.
Q: Juan, would you like the number one status that Michael has in his team? Do you see a point where you could be given that and do you see advantages from that?
MONTOYA: Not a team like Williams, no. I think Williams is very fair for both drivers. I think they're able to produce exactly same equipment for both drivers. They've got good enough people for both cars. The only thing is the spare car goes from one side to the other per race. But if you do need a deal, in five minutes it's ready. So that's only the difference. If you go to a smaller team where, you know, to get something new is only going to be only one car, then it would count to be a number one. But in Williams, every time we go somewhere there's enough bits for both cars.
Q: It counts at Ferrari?
MONTOYA: Why it counts for Ferrari? Because if Michael has the spare car or because he's quicker? If you look at Rubens, you know, Rubens beat him last week, and I believe, you know, I don't think they're going to produce a quicker engine for Michael than for Rubens. I think the engines are the same. If Michael gets a quicker engine, it will be two horsepower, three. These engines are done so precisely that the power difference between them is nothing. It would be half a tenth per lap or something. So you couldn't go and say he's getting less equipment. You know, he's got his engineers, he's getting his stuff. The only difference is the spare car.
Q: Juan, at most circuits, especially Europe, most people are cheering for Schumacher. Do you think that will be reversed here because of your history of driving in America and also in Indianapolis?
MONTOYA: It would be nice. I think, I would think I do have quite a big following in America. It's good to see -- you know, that's been quite good everywhere I've been. There's always been like Colombian flags and I know a lot of Colombians are coming for this race. This is for me like my home race. I spent the last two years racing here, you know, apart from that Indy is very close for home. My family lives here. So it is like home.
Q: Juan Pablo, you've had a couple of years over here driving, and now you've had a season watching Formula One at work around the world where it's a huge sport. Do you think Formula One has really got a future here? Will the Americans really adopt Formula One in the way they've adopted NASCAR and other sports?
MONTOYA: NASCAR is a bit different because they do 32 races, 32, 35 -- 36, too many. (Laughter) I think I was talking to Jimmy, I think they've (NASCAR) got 20 races in a row. The guys, I don't think they ever test a car. You go from one race to the other, to the other and you do appearances. Formula One is a bit different because of the rules. In NASCAR, there are still cars and the buddies and all this, yeah? In Formula One, because of the technology, because they're also a lot more open, you're allowed to change a lot more stuff, yeah. It's not like in NASCAR you've got three cars -- three, isn't it? Three cars in NASCAR? You've got Ford, Dodge --
MONTOYA: So it was a bit like in CART where you pick, you know, in CART you pick your chassis and your engine. Here you've got your package. You've got to try within the rules of the car, try to maximize a little bit here and a little bit there, yeah? The biggest difference is going to be the engine, whoever builds the best engine. In Formula One, you can go and if you really have a close look of the car, I guarantee out of 17 races, 14 races the car will be different. There will be something different in the car, something new, something small, anything that is going to make the car go quicker.
Q: But just to sort of reinforce the point, do you think that the Americans will regard, ever regard Formula One as the way Europeans regard it and the Japanese as the summit of racing? Will it have the same affect on their consciousness, do you think?
MONTOYA: The Americans are a bit different but there are so many. America is so big that I think they've got fans for everything. I think the people that will appreciate it, they will appreciate Formula One the way it is. I think Formula One being here in Indianapolis, racing at the Brickyard is going to -- I think it's a very strong point for Formula One.
Q: Do you think, Juan Pablo, that it was important from the image of Formula One that it should be seen to be going ahead with its commitment to race in the U.S. so soon after the terrible problems they've had here?
MONTOYA: Yeah, I think it was, you know, it was a decision made by the organizers and everything. As a driver, as myself, I didn't see a problem coming. I think it was a very -- you know, it was up to them, not up to me really. You know, we're here and should go ahead, and I'm very pleased. I think it's going to be a great show, and hopefully we can get a good result out of it.