His time in Formula One was aggressive, confrontational, and in-your-face – and that’s why so many people loved him. He was a breath of fresh air in a staid and stuffy environment, where no-one was allowed to say or do anything that would cast the sport in a bad light. He was relatively happy during his time with BMW-Williams – he had some measure of freedom to be himself. But his time at McLaren Mercedes was just a disaster – way too formal, too strict and with far too many rules – Juan Pablo would unfortunately never survive under Ron Dennis’s dictatorship!
He left the McLaren-Mercedes team midway through 2006 to pursue a career in NASCAR, and after two years away from the sport, appears to have no regrets about leaving Formula One. “Formula One drivers are convinced that they’re so much better than anyone else,” Montoya, who races for the Chip Ganassi team, said. “When I was in F1, every week I was on the podium. It was cool, but is it satisfying? It wasn’t, because it was the most boring races. The guy who started in front of you would drive away from you and the guy who was behind you would drop away from you, unless you messed up in qualifying and then you need to have a different pitstop strategy to beat them.”
Whereas Formula One revels in the romantic notion of presenting the zenith of style and grace, Nascar delights in being bold, brash and loud. The supercharged road cars steam around predominantly oval tracks, with hundreds of overtaking manoeuvres per race. Fans park their motorhomes on the track infield, barbecuing and drinking as the drivers race around them. At the end, the race winner does not spray Moët et Chandon, but Budweiser.
“It’s boring,” Montoya said. “It’s a shame because the technology these cars have and the amount of companies that are involved is unreal. I don’t know how big companies do it for such a long time without results.”
In Nascar, there are more than 40 cars racing wheel to wheel for up to three hours. “It’s harder here,” Montoya said. “When you run fifteenth, sometimes you think it sucks. But look at the big picture: fifteenth here is like sixth or seventh in F1, because there are twice as many cars. The incredible thing is here I run fifteenth or twentieth on average and there are four or five weeks in the year where I have a chance of winning. In F1 if you run sixth or seventh, you run sixth or seventh the whole year.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re running for the lead, or for 30th, you’re always racing somebody. That’s much better.”
Juan Pablo Montoya’s Pedigree
His 2008 record
During 2008 he competed in 36 races, completing 96% of the laps. He had no wins or poles, and ended with a ranking of 25. He had two top 5 finishes, and three top 10′s. His best result was a 2nd place at Aaron’s 499 on April 27.
I just don’t get oval circuit racing
What is it about oval circuit racing that grabs the imagination of the American’s? Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not knocking it – its just that I don’t see the attraction for seeing 30-40 equally matched cars, stuck in top gear an at maxuimum revs, following each other around a small oval track. There are no corners, no driving skill in the traditional sense (although I realise that it must take some pretty awesome car control to keep a car at high speed on banked circuits), no real overtaking – just the slipstreaming behind the cars in front. In a 200 lap race, the pace car can come out several times, bunching the field right up to where they were when they started. What is the point then of trying to break away and establish a lead? I just far prefer the European Formula One series instead of the American IndyCar series, and for instance the Australian V8′s instead of NASCAR – there’s just more to it – high speed straights, slow corners, heavy braking zones – and it just seems more like racing.