An interview with the first Skip Barber alumnus to win a Formula One Grand Prix. 1993 Barber Pro Series race winner Juan Pablo Montoya is making many headlines this year as a rookie with the BMW WilliamsF1 team, enjoying one of the strongest ...
An interview with the first Skip Barber alumnus to win a Formula One Grand Prix.
1993 Barber Pro Series race winner Juan Pablo Montoya is making many headlines this year as a rookie with the BMW WilliamsF1 team, enjoying one of the strongest rookie seasons in a generation in Formula One. After second-place finishes at the Spanish and European Grands Prix, Montoya won his first career pole in Germany, followed by two more at Belgium and Italy. The 2000 Indianapolis 500 race winner and 1999 CART FedEx championship made the most of his pole position at Monza to claim his maiden win in Formula One competition. Montoya talks about his rookie season to date and the upcoming challenges of the U.S. Grand Prix.
Q: You've probably run more laps at Indianapolis than any driver in this year's USGP except for Jacques Villeneuve, but none are on the road circuits. How do you prepare for the road circuit, and how well-suited is it to the Compaq BMW WilliamsF1 car?
JPM: I think the circuit is pretty good. I drove it around when they were building it back in 1999 and 2000, before the Indy 500. So I know the circuit quite well in that perspective. It's a pretty good circuit. I think it's a circuit where we should be very strong, because I think power does count, and I think we've got plenty of that.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the difference in the mental attitude from going from a series like CART, which was really a driver's series, to Formula One, which is a driver's series and a car series? The car makes a big difference there.
JPM: Well, I think both circuits, you know, the driver counts. I think Formula One, you've got to be competitive to be able to win it, and I think CART you can win not from any team, but there is a wider range of things you could win. So as long as your here in a competitive team, what happens is you're going to be strong in some places, some others you won't be so strong. But, you know, I think mentally it is very tough, Formula One. It's a bit stronger mentally than in Formula One. You've got to be a lot stronger. I think the cars are a bit more complicated than the Champ Cars.
Q: Does the fact that you've won the Indianapolis 500 still get you a lot of respect among your peers over in F1? I know some people might have said, "Hey, that's oval racing," and you guys were doing the most competitive, perhaps complicated, road racing in the world. Talk about going over there as an Indy 500 champion and what doors it has opened for you.
JPM: Well I think its part of my entire resume, you know. Winning the Indy 500, winning the CART Championship have been the biggest two goals I've done in my career, and I think that it's something really special. I think it's in my heart, and I've got great memories from that.
Q: You are very competitive this year, but yet you have so many DNF's so far. How did your experience from last year come into play where you were in a situation with Ganassi in CART?
JPM: Well, you know in Ganassi the second year, we had a lot of problems as well in the car. There was a lot DNF's, like 14 or 15 DNF's in a year, and that was very difficult. I thought when I was going to come here it was going to be much better in that perspective, but you know, it's been very tough. I would say I've been very lucky in some perspectives. I haven't done many mistakes in the races.
Q: Does F1 allow for any type of friendships between drivers and people outside the team and even with your own teammate? Or is it just kind of discouraged, it's so competitive?
JPM: Well, it is very competitive, but it is not something that -- I don't know, you don't really talk to anybody, to be honest. I thought you would, but you don't. You are more into yourself and you're so busy all day that you don't get much time to spare to talk to other drivers.
Q: How tough is Michael Schumacher? How have you found him? How does he compare with the drivers in America that you've raced against?
JPM: Well, I think Michael is a very good driver, and I think one thing he has is a lot of experience. But at the same time he has a lot of experience, he just never stops pushing, and I think that's what makes him be so competitive. I think he has a great car as well. You know, I think he is a really good driver, and that makes quite a lot of difference.
As compared with American drivers, I think there are good drivers in America, and I was competitive in America. I won the championship there, and I've been competitive here, so I think most series are quite competitive. I think Formula One has a lot more technology.
Q: Not only are you a rookie in Formula One, but you've got the new Michelin tires to work with there. Talk a little bit about that and, you know, not having driven any laps at speed at the Brickyard road course, do you think that you guys have got a tire that will have something for them when they get there?
JPM: Yes, I think we'll be quite competitive. I think it's going to take a bit of time to really get there and work with that. But from what I've seen so far, I would definitely think that we are looking quite strong.
Q: You spent a lot of time with Williams last year at Indy. Did you get a chance to learn the general setup for the race?
JPM: Well, you know, every year the car is different. You've got something new in the car, so you can't really go and say, "Yes, I've learned the set up." Because my driving style is different, but the team has a lot of data from the previous year, and we'll see how that applies.
Q: Formula One, is it more demanding on your time? Do you have more or less free time than you did when you were racing in the United States?
JPM: It's a bit less. I think you've got about the same amount of appearances and the sponsorship dates, but you have got a lot more testing because of the rules. You know we test nearly every week after a race.
Q: Do you feel that you have more free time, or do you have time on your own?
JPM: I wouldn't say I've got a lot more time, you know, free time. I think I had before more free time than now. I think that the last three weeks we had a pretty good break, but now we have to wait and see what happens now.
Q: What would it mean to you to become the first driver to win both the Indy and the U.S. Grand Prix?
JPM: I think first I have to win it, but I think it would be something really special. Imagine that -- that would be really nice, especially, you know, I won Indy in my rookie year and to get the win there in the U.S. Grand Prix in my rookie year, it would be just fantastic. But from saying it to doing it is a long way.