MONACO, Saturday, May 26, 2001 - Juan Pablo Montoya used to dream about days like these. Last year, Colombian superstar Montoya won the Indianapolis 500 in his first start at the Brickyard. One year later, he is taking part in another of ...
MONACO, Saturday, May 26, 2001 - Juan Pablo Montoya used to dream about days like these.
Last year, Colombian superstar Montoya won the Indianapolis 500 in his first start at the Brickyard. One year later, he is taking part in another of the world's most prestigious auto races -- the Monaco Grand Prix. When he was a child, he used to dream about racing in Indianapolis and Monaco. "You only dream about being there," he said, "but you never really think you are actually going to get this far. When you are a kid it is only a dream.
"I won Indy, and it will be nice if I can win here in Monaco. It is my first time here in a Formula One car. There are going to be a lot of things to learn, but that doesn't mean that I won't be pushing. I will give it a good go, like always." Montoya pushed hard last year when he led 167 of 200 laps to win the 84th running of the Indianapolis 500. He has fond memories of that victory.
"It was quite special to win there," he said. "It was very good. I have good memories of all my team ... Chip (Ganassi), Jimmy (Vasser), all my engineers, all my mechanics, everyone at Target.... They're good memories." While the 33 qualifiers for this year's Indianapolis 500 took part in the final day of practice May 24 in preparation for Sunday's race, 22 F1 drivers, including Montoya, took part in the first day of practice for Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix.
The tight, twisting, narrow, barrier-lined, 19-turn Monaco street circuit doesn't allow any room for driver error. Montoya found that out when he lost control of his Williams-BMW under braking for the Rascasse hairpin. "I lost (control of) the car under braking and hit the barrier," said Montoya who ended up 16th quickest after the first day of practice. "I was pushing it. It was getting better and better and better, and I just made a mistake."
Montoya wasn't the only driver to hit the barriers. Others included his teammate Ralf Schumacher. But both recovered in qualifying, with Schumacher earning the fifth starting spot and Montoya the seventh.
Set in the glittering surroundings of the French Riviera, Monaco is the most glamorous Grand Prix on the Formula One schedule. Like many of the F1 drivers, Montoya is based in Monaco. He says he is too busy to soak in much of the atmosphere surrounding the track and the race.
"It's not that you don't feel the atmosphere here," he said, "it's just that there are so many things involved that you are concentrated on the racing or other things. At the moment, you have to focus on the racing. You can't really think 'Hey, I'm in Monaco, this is exciting'. You just have to do the job."
As for comparing the atmosphere of the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix, Montoya said he wanted to wait until Sunday's race.
"A lot of the Indy-car fans are in the paddock," he said, "so the atmosphere is a bit different. We will have to wait and see. Today is only Thursday, so by Sunday it should be quite good."
Although he is busy in Monaco, Montoya is still interested in this year's Indianapolis 500.
"It is very difficult to say," he said when asked who he predicts will win the "500." "In those 500-mile races you never really know what is going to happen. My team (Ganassi) from last year should be quite strong this year. They have four cars. I don't know how they are going to handle that, but I am sure that they will have a good chance. Jimmy Vasser should be quite strong."
Montoya had some advice for Indy rookies Bruno Junqueira and Nicolas Minassian, who, like him, graduated from the FIA International Formula 3000 championship and now drive for Chip Ganassi.
"They don't have a lot of oval experience apart from Minassian," Montoya said. "I think 500 miles is a very tricky race. A 500-mile race is completely different from anything.
"You need to take care of the car, you need to be patient, and when you're used to racing hard all day long, it means making some big adjustments. You've got to take care of the car, take care of everything, until the last 50 miles. Then you give it a good go."
A 500-mile race on a high-speed, four-turn, 2.5-mile oval at average speeds of 220 mph presents a vastly different challenge to the drivers compared to a 190-mile race on a 19-turn, 2.094-mile street course at average speeds of 90 mph.
"You can't compare an oval with a street course," Montoya said. "A 500-mile race is very technical race in that you really have to take your time to do everything because you have to get to the end in three hours. Here you can do a race in an hour and a half. So it is a massive difference." T The Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix are indeed very different races. Graham Hill is the only driver who has won both. And Montoya wants to join that exclusive club.