Montoya qualifies down under; one step closer to F1 debut

Former Barber Pro Series racer Juan Montoya moved one step closer to his Formula One debut in Australia yesterday when he completed qualifying and claimed the 11th spot on the grid. Though his result is respectable given he'd never seen the track...

Former Barber Pro Series racer Juan Montoya moved one step closer to his Formula One debut in Australia yesterday when he completed qualifying and claimed the 11th spot on the grid. Though his result is respectable given he'd never seen the track before this week, expectations are high for the Columbian born pilot. The 25-year old is being touted as the next big thing, perhaps a legitimate threat to World Driving Champions Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen.

Here are excerpts of a recent interview with Montoya on the eve of his F1 debut.

Q: Juan, are you happy to be back in F1?
JPM: I have always dreamed of it and I have worked hard for this. I believe F1 is the absolute pinnacle of motorsport and I've always wanted to be here. I did think something would come from my testing for WilliamsF1, in 1998, but when Frank (Williams) told me he was going to sign Ralf (Schumacher) and then he signed Alex (Zanardi) I thought damn, I'm done! F1 was everything and suddenly it had all disappeared.

Q: Juan, what are the main differences between Champ Cars and F1?
JPM: These cars are a lot different to what I'm used to. It's in the incredibly fast corners - they're pretty wild and pretty exciting in an F1 car. The immediate difference I have noticed is that you have to be a lot smoother and smarter driving F1 cars. You can throw them around more than the ones I've been driving in America, but they are not as forgiving as Champ Cars. My test over the winter have been quite positive. Mostly if you consider that when I drove for the first time in Jerez last December nearly two years had gone since the previous time I sat in an F1 car. Anyway I know what F1 is about and I have been to a lot of races in the past so it doesn't make me too apprehensive.

Q: What are your expectations for this first season in F1?
JPM: This is going to be a huge challenge for me, I don't know what to expect. I have to learn from other people and play it really smart. It's a learning year and although you want to try and win all the time, sometimes you don't have the car able to do that, as it happened to me last year in America. Race wins depends on the driver as much as on the quality of the car-engine-tyres package. And you've got to do the best you can. The only thing I know is that I am going to go out there and give 100 per cent. It may take a year to win, maybe another year or maybe three years, but when the time comes you have to be ready for it. Winning is not easy and even in Champ Cars I never expected to win in my first year.

Q: Who would you thank the most for your career in motorsport?
JPM: I owe everything to my father Pablo. If it wasn?t for him I wouldn't be here today. Since I started racing, he supported me in everything: economically, mentally and physically. He took me to all the races, no matter how far from home they were.

- Andrew Torres

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Mika Hakkinen
Teams Williams