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Biography

SEASON INFORMATION
27/03/2017

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Biography

 

Inspired by his father, Montoya began racing at a young age, and claimed his first karting championship at the age of six. Juan Pablo went on to win a number of Colombian championships before moving to compete in the US at the age of 17.

In 1996 Juan Pablo competed in the British F3 championship, and it was here that he began to get himself noticed. One pole and three victories helped him earn an F3000 drive for the following season, and Juan Pablo came second in the championship at the end of his first year!

1998 saw him crowned F3000 champion, and he was signed as a test driver for Williams, gaining his first experience of F1.

After losing out on a race seat with Williams in 1999, after the team signed Alessandro Zanardi, Montoya switched his attentions to the US, making his CART debut with Chip Ganassi Racing. It was an impressive first season, with the Colombian winning his third race and going on to score a total of seven victories to win the championship at the first attempt. He stayed in America for another year, and proceeded to win the Indy 500, becoming the first rookie to do so for 34 years.

Montoya finally made his F1 debut in 2001, replacing Jenson Button at Williams, and demonstrated his ability from the off.

An impressive move on reigning World Champion Michael Schumacher in Brazil saw Juan Pablo take the lead in only his third race, and the Colombian was heading for victory before a mistake by Jos Verstappen saw the pair collide, forcing Montoya to retire.

It was not long before Juan Pablo stood on the podium for the first time; a second place in the Spanish GP proved to be the first of four visits in his debut season.

An argument with Jacques Villeneuve during the Canadian GP weekend earned Montoya harsh words from team boss Frank Williams, and the Colombian appeared to take the lesson to heart, improving his qualifying performance and scoring two points finishes in the following three races.

A well-deserved victory came at Monza and Juan Pablo went on to out-perform his German team-mate for the remainder of the season.

In 2002 despite starting from pole position seven times, Juan Pablo was unable to convert any of these into victories, team-mate Ralf Schumacher meanwhile took a well earned win at Sepang.

Although the BMW engine was possibly the class of the field, the FW24 didn't do it justice, then again that doesn't fully explain Juan Pablo's failure to win at least one race.

In the opening races the Colombian tended to race with his heart rather than his head, and as the season progressed there were some silly clashes with his team-mate, though often it was the German at fault.

Whereas Ralf is a thinker, Montoya is a racer's racer who tends to drive through problems. Some of his qualifying laps were sensational and consequently some of those pole positions were against all odds.

At Monza Montoya made history when he posted the fastest qualifying lap in F1 history. Ahead of the 2003 season much was expected of both Montoya and the BMW-WilliamsF1 FW25, however after just a couple of races BMW was publicly criticising its technical partner whilst McLaren and Ferrari built a comfortable championship lead.

With BMW appearing to hesitate regarding the signing of a new contract, WilliamsF1 pulled out all the stops and suddenly the FW25 was the class of the field.

In the press room at Monte Carlo, Montoya got a standing ovation for a fine victory, the second win of his F1 career, in Germany he took another impressive victory, beating Schumacher in his 'home' race.

The Colombian looked set to take the title fight to the wire, until a 'coming together' with Rubens Barrichello at Indianapolis resulted in a 'drive-thru' penalty. The penalty couldn't have happened at a worse time for it had just started to rain and Juan Pablo was on the wrong tyres. This meant that in addition to the 'drive-thru' he also went off - due to the conditions - thereby losing valuable positions and indeed the World Championship.

Montoya and indeed most F1 fans and insiders feel that the stewards' decision that day robbed F1 of an epic duel at Suzuka, a three-way title fight.

Montoya was clearly maturing, though there were still moments when his Latin temperament rose to the surface. In addition there were a number of silly mistakes, some he got away with, some he didn't.

When, in November 2003, McLaren revealed that it had signed Montoya for 2005, there was widespread speculation that the Colombian would either join the Woking outfit a year early or be sent on 'gardening leave' by the Grove team. Yet at the launch of the FW26 there was Juan Pablo as large as life, looking relaxed and confident.

Anyone who had any lingering doubts as to his commitment will surely have appreciated Juan Pablo in 2004.

Almost from the outset it was clear that the FW26 was no championship winner, far from it.

As ever however, he continued to delight and infuriate in equal measure, making a ludicrous mistake one minute, then a ball-breaking manoeuvre the next.

What happened in the tunnel at Monaco was stupid, though Michael Schumacher must accept some of the blame. Then again, there was that wonderful move on the world champion at Spa, the ultimate racer's circuit.

It seemed like ironic justice that he signed off at WilliamsF1 with a win in Brazil, the last race of the season.

Free of WilliamsF1, where he didn't appear to be happy, especially alongside Ralf Schumacher, we expected to see the real Juan Pablo Montoya at McLaren in 2005.

Unfortunately it was much of the same thing, brilliant one minute, dreadful the next.

Entering the lion's den at Woking, where Kimi Raikkonen was clearly the favourite son, was never going to be easy. But why oh why did Juan Pablo make it so difficult for himself?

Hardly had the season begun, and the Colombian was forced to miss two races as a result of a mysterious tennis accident.

Granted, there were problems with the MP4-20 at the beginning of the season, furthermore it took the Woking outfit time to get used to the Colombian's temperament and gradually reign him in. However, by the end of the season there were clear signs of improvement.

Mind you, along the way we'd had to endure the madness at Monaco when he deliberated 'brake tested' his former teammate during practice, and consequently got himself demoted to the back of the grid.

There were also clashes with Tiago Monteiro (Turkey) and Antonio Pizzonia (Belgium), which despite the protestations, and typical Latin bravado, Montoya was not blameless, far from it.

Then again, Juan Pablo was badly let down by his team in Canada when it made a strategic cock-up, resulting in Ron Dennis having to apologize to the Colombian.

When Montoya is bad he's a nightmare, but when he's good he's absolutely brilliant, witness the wins at Silverstone, Monza and Interlagos, not to mention the fight back at Hockenheim, having spun off in qualifying.

At the end of 2005, it was revealed - much to the shock of everyone in F1, and no doubt Juan Pablo - that McLaren had secured the services of World Champion Fernando Alonso for 2007, thereby putting huge question marks over the (McLaren) future of both the Colombian and his Finnish teammate, Kimi Raikkonen.

In an interview for a radio podcast in early 2005, Pitpass editor Chris Balfe had said he believed that what Juan Pablo really needs in order to fulfil his F1 destiny is a team that focuses entirely on him. A family environment, much like Jordan or Ferrari, where the hot-headed Latin can be molly coddled. The one team in the F1 pitlane that cannot offer such an environment, as Balfe pointed out, is McLaren.

Going into 2006, Montoya was still smarting from the rows in 2005, the Canada strategy and the frost atmosphere within the team following the 'tennis injury'. Add to this the fact that somebody was going to be dumped in favour of Alonso, and it was clear why Juan Pablo was not a happy bunny.

The season got off to a decent start with points in the first two races, then came Australia, a race in which the Colombia visibly cracked.

In addition to numerous spins, including one on the parade lap, Juan Pablo was furious when forced to wait in the pitlane, behind Raikkonen, when the team made the wrong call, bringing in both drivers during a safety car period.

Later in the race, and looking good for a podium finish, the McLaren is out of the race, the Colombian telling his crew that "it switched itself off". In reality, Montoya had damaged the chassis, triggering a mechanism which switched off the engine, by hitting one of the kerbs earlier in the race.

A convincing second at Monaco was followed by two disastrous races in north America, clipping the wall and breaking his car's suspension in Canada, then, running into the back of his teammate at Indianapolis.

Days later, Juan Pablo revealed that the big question as to who would partner Alonso in 2007 no longer concerned him, as he had signed a deal to heads back to the USA, where he would make the switch to NASCAR.

As the news that F1 was losing Montoya began to sink in, McLaren dropped the bombshell, revealing that it was releasing the Colombian with immediate effect.

A sad end to a hit and miss F1 career. At times he would have us screaming in delight, and at others punching the wall in frustration.

Whether we will ever se him in F1 again remains to be seen, however, we will always have those magical, purely Montoya, moments, including "you break my head".

Statistics - At the end of 2006

Drivers' Titles: 0
Seasons in F1: 6
Grand Prix: 94
Wins: 7
Points: 307
Poles: 12
Fastest Laps: 12

Best result in 2006: 2nd (Monaco)
Best qualifying 2006: 4th (Monaco)
Worst qualifying 2006: 12th (Spain)
Average grid position 2006: 7.3
2006: Out-qualified Kimi Raikkonen 3 times 2006: Out-qualified by Kimi Raikkonen 7 times

2006: Completed: 441 out of 639 laps (69.01%)
2006: Finished 6 times from 8 starts (75%)

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