INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2001 - 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya says he has much to learn in his rookie Formula One season with the Williams-BMW team. "It is very difficult to say what's going to happen through the ...
INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2001 - 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya says he has much to learn in his rookie Formula One season with the Williams-BMW team.
"It is very difficult to say what's going to happen through the season," Montoya said. "I am trying as hard as I can to do my best. If you really think about it, I'm brand new here, so I have to learn the tracks, learn the engine, the tires. So far, it seems that things are going quite well." After winning the FIA International Formula 3000 Championship and working as a test driver for Williams in 1998, Montoya moved to North America where he won the 1999 CART championship and the 2000 Indianapolis 500. Will he continue his winning ways in his first F1 season? "It is very difficult to expect to win in the first year because you have to wait and see how competitive the car is," he said. "If the car is good enough to win, then you should be able to win. If the car is not able to win, then you will never win.
"The idea with the car is to be a lot closer to McLaren and Ferrari, but we have to wait and see what it does on the track. The minimum thing that we can aim for is being third in the championship again. I'm new here, but I believe in time I can do a good job. I will always give 100 percent." This year the Williams-BMW team will race on Michelin tires. Michelin is back in F1 for the first time since 1984, and Montoya believes that the tire war between Michelin and Bridgestone could lead to some surprise results this season.
"One of the key points we could have through the season that could become a plus is the Michelin tires," he said. "So far, the development of the tires seems to be going quite well. Maybe at some races we are going to be very slow, and maybe at other races we are going to be extremely fast." Montoya and his Williams-BMW teammate, Ralf Schumacher, have been testing virtually nonstop since Dec. 1. They recently completed a six-day, hot-weather test at South Africa's Kyalami circuit. Montoya plays down stories that he and his new teammate will not get along. "He's a good guy," Montoya said. "I don't have any problems with him. He is quite a fast driver. It's going to be quite good because we can push each other quite a lot. Off the track, he's focusing on his job, and I'm focusing on mine. That is as far as it goes." Schumacher is entering his fifth F1 season and has driven at all the tracks on this year's 17-race schedule. While Montoya competed in F3000 on many of the same tracks he will race on in Europe this summer, there will still be plenty of circuits he will experience for the first time. But Montoya uses a virtual tool to learn new circuits: computer games. "I play a lot of computer games," he said. "Not only for that. I'm a big computer freak." One of the new tracks Montoya will have to learn this year is the 13-turn, 2.605-mile (4.192-km) road circuit at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Last year, he drove through Turn 1 of the oval 200 times en route to victory in the Indianapolis 500. This year, he will drive through that same turn "backward," as it is the final turn of the road circuit. "It will be quite good to go back to race there with a Formula One car," Montoya said of returning to the Brickyard. "It will be a bit funny when I go through Turn 1 the other way around. I'll think 'Hmmm, what's going on here?' It will be a bit weird."
Montoya and 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve are the only two active F1 drivers who have raced in the Indianapolis 500.