The day Montoya gave F1 a shock to the system

The Brazilian Grand Prix in Interlagos has a rich history of delivering some of Formula 1’s most thrilling spectacles. In 2001, it was a sensational rookie that gave the sport a much-needed shock to the system.

The day Montoya gave F1 a shock to the system

The opening races of the 2001 season foreshadowed what would be an era of dominance for Michael Schumacher and Ferrari. After finally defeating McLaren's Mika Hakkinen in 2000 the German would go on to dominate the sport for another four seasons. 

Schumacher duly took pole in Sao Paulo, then the third race of the season, following two wins out of two in Australia and Malaysia. Main rival Hakkinen took third, splitting the BMW Williams entries of Michael's brother Ralf and newcomer Juan Pablo Montoya. 

Montoya had been recruited from CART team Chip Ganassi Racing after winning the 1999 CART title and the 2000 Indy 500.

A move from IndyCar to F1 is practically unheard of these days, but back then Williams team boss Frank Williams already had a good experience with North American recruits. In 1996 he had brought in Jacques Villeneuve after a similar trajectory in the States, taking the Canadian to the 1997 world championship.

The then 25-year old Montoya had shown early promise despite retiring from the first two races in 2001, but the world had to wait until the third round in Brazil to witness the Colombian's mercurial talent. 

Read Also:

A new challenger

Montoya moved up from fourth to second at the start, passing team-mate Ralf and Hakkinen, who stalled on the grid. Following a safety car intervention to recover the stricken McLaren, Montoya found himself directly behind Schumacher at the restart.

From a long way back Montoya produced an incredible bit of car control - extremely late on the brakes on the dirty inside line, while avoiding a lock-up - to muscle his way past the three-time world champion. The crowds were stunned, neutral spectators rejoiced. A new challenger had arrived.

It wasn't the just the overtake itself that gave Formula 1 a shock to the system, but more so the manner in which it happened. Montoya showed no fear or reverence for the reigning world champion, all but forcing Schumacher on to the grass on the exit of Turn One.

In a season where many feared Schumacher's red brigade would be unstoppable, a rookie had provided a jolt of electricity and a glimmer of hope.

Montoya would go on to amass a 30-second lead on Schumacher by the halfway mark until he came across the lapped Arrows of Jos Verstappen. The Dutchman dutifully pulled over to let the leader past, but then crashed into the back of the Williams into Turn 4. 

"He braked very early and that was it, I couldn't avoid him anymore," Verstappen said at the time, before receiving a fine for the incident. "I'm really sorry for him because I heard he was leading the race."

While the incident robbed Montoya of a sensational maiden win, a sudden downpour meant the drama was far from over at Interlagos. On a drying track Schumacher went off on new intermediates, allowing Coulthard to close the gap.

With 22 laps to go, Coulthard took command into Turn One, overtaking Schumacher while the unassuming Tarso Marques split the pair in his lapped Minardi. 

After another slip-up by Schumacher, who seemed to struggle on a dry setup, Coulthard took the win by 16 seconds. Sauber's Nick Heidfeld grabbed a shock podium in one of the most memorable dry-wet races in history.

However, it was Montoya's daring challenge on Schumacher that was the talk of the paddock. A mix on reliability problems and driver errors kept the Colombian from scoring his first win until the fifteenth race in Italy. The fact that Montoya took his first of seven wins in front of the tifosi underlined his status as Schumacher's new challenger. 

In two rollercoaster stints for Williams and McLaren, Montoya never quite got there, but his raw speed and temperament gave the corporate environment of Formula 1 a much-needed shock to the system. The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix was the race that started it all.

Watch all the best images from the 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures
1/20

Photo by: Motorsport Images

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures
2/20

Photo by: Sergio Sanderson

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures
3/20

Photo by: Motorsport Images

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures
4/20

Photo by: Motorsport Images

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures
5/20

Photo by: James Bearne

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures
6/20

Photo by: Sutton Images

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures
7/20

Photo by: Sutton Images

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures
8/20

Photo by: Sutton Images

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures
9/20

Photo by: Sergio Sanderson

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures
10/20

Photo by: Motorsport Images

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures
11/20

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures
12/20

Photo by: Sutton Images

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures
13/20

Photo by: Sutton Images

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures
14/20

Photo by: Sutton Images

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures
15/20

Photo by: Sutton Images

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures
16/20

Photo by: Sergio Sanderson

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures
17/20

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures
18/20

Photo by: Sergio Sanderson

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures
19/20

Photo by: Ferrari Media Center

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures

The 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix in pictures
20/20

Photo by: Motorsport Images

shares
comments

Related video

Alfa Romeo has reclaimed its spot in the F1 midfield - Vasseur

Previous article

Alfa Romeo has reclaimed its spot in the F1 midfield - Vasseur

Next article

Hamilton: Verstappen won't make Turn 4 mistake again

Hamilton: Verstappen won't make Turn 4 mistake again
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya , Michael Schumacher
Author Filip Cleeren
The Barcelona practice times that prove Red Bull has hidden pace Prime

The Barcelona practice times that prove Red Bull has hidden pace

Lewis Hamilton led the way in Friday practice for the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix, but there was one major encouraging sign for Red Bull. However, making good on that gain will require Max Verstappen to avoid repeating a mistake that left him well down the FP2 order...

Formula 1
May 7, 2021
Why McLaren doesn’t doubt Ricciardo can escape his ‘dark’ place Prime

Why McLaren doesn’t doubt Ricciardo can escape his ‘dark’ place

Three points finishes from as many starts represents a decent opening innings on paper, but Daniel Ricciardo has endured a tough start to his McLaren career - only magnified his teammate's excellent form. Yet both he and the team have good reason to expect a turnaround soon.

Formula 1
May 6, 2021
What needs to “change” for Red Bull is ending Verstappen’s errors Prime

What needs to “change” for Red Bull is ending Verstappen’s errors

OPINION: Going up against the dominant force of Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton was always going to demand the best from Red Bull and Max Verstappen. But after making a couple more errors during the Portuguese Grand Prix, the Dutch driver showed there's a small gap he still needs to close in the 2021 Formula 1 title fight.

Formula 1
May 5, 2021
The "subtle" Red Bull upgrades that kept it in the Portugal F1 mix Prime

The "subtle" Red Bull upgrades that kept it in the Portugal F1 mix

Red Bull's Portuguese Grand Prix fortunes were decidedly second best to Mercedes', but the result skews the potential that the team had at Portimao. With a new set of updates, the team looks good going forward into the rest of 2021's spicy F1 competition

Formula 1
May 3, 2021
Portuguese Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

Portuguese Grand Prix driver ratings

The 2021 Portuguese GP will for several drivers go down as a weekend of missed opportunities amid imperfect track conditions that caused struggles with tyre warm-up. But the performances of a select few stood out from the crowd

Formula 1
May 3, 2021
The five key tests Hamilton passed to claim Portugal victory Prime

The five key tests Hamilton passed to claim Portugal victory

Just as he did in 2020, Lewis Hamilton had to come from behind to win the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix. Only this time there were two rivals he had to pass, among the several challenges he had to overcome, on his way to securing a 97th grand prix victory

Formula 1
May 3, 2021
Imola 1994: Memories from Ayrton Senna’s F1 rivals Prime

Imola 1994: Memories from Ayrton Senna’s F1 rivals

The tragic events of the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix changed Formula 1 forever. Here, 17 of the drivers who took part explain how they coped with the devastating deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna.

Formula 1
May 1, 2021
The data that leaves both Red Bull, Mercedes uncertain of supremacy Prime

The data that leaves both Red Bull, Mercedes uncertain of supremacy

Lewis Hamilton topped the crucial FP2 session on Friday as F1 returned to Portugal, but his Mercedes team cannot be sure it has the edge on its Red Bull rivals. As cool temperatures and wind combine with the still-slippery surface to present drivers with quandaries over set-up and tyre warmup, there's still everything to play for come qualifying.

Formula 1
May 1, 2021