GPBlog's Top 50 drivers in 50 days - #24 - Juan Pablo Montoya

20-02-2020 19:00
by Adam Newton
General
GPBlog's Top 50 drivers in 50 days - #24 - Juan Pablo Montoya

Hello there and welcome back to GPBlog’s countdown of our top 50 F1 drivers of all time. F1 is nearly back and after day two of testing we are getting ever closer to the season opener in Melbourne. Yesterday we were profiling 2009 champion Jenson Button, but today we are looking at a former rival of his, Juan Pablo Montoya.

Before joining F1, Montoya already had a reputation as a fiercely quick driver and some big titles under his belt, such as Formula 3000, the American CART series and the Indy 500.

He made his long-awaited F1 debut in 2001 with Williams and was leading at Interlagos in just his third race in the series. That was until Jos Verstappen crashed into Montoya when the Colombian was lapping him, ending their races.

He had failed to finish a race after four attempts, through no fault of his own and he put that statistic right in Spain. After a poor qualifying, he made up places on the first lap and eventually came home in P2, his first points in the sport.

His bad luck continued with engine problems in both the German and Belgian Grands Prix forcing him out, having taken pole position the day before.

It wasn’t long before he got that winning moment though, as he converted another pole into win at the Italian Grand Prix.

2002 saw an improvement in Williams’ reliability and subsequently in Montoya’s performances. He went winless but outscored teammate Ralf Schumacher, regularly stepping on the podium and ending the season third in the championship.

In 2003 Ferrari were less dominant and Montoya became a championship contender. A poor start to the season saw Montoya down in seventh after round six, but after that he went on a real hot streak.

A run of eight podiums in succession, including wins in Monaco and Germany saw him trail Michael Schumacher by just three points with two rounds to go.

However, he only managed sixth at Indianapolis in a race his title rivals Schumacher and McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen finished first and second, meaning he could no longer finish ahead of Schumacher, the eventual champion.

Ferrari’s dominance returned in 2004 and Montoya had to settle for P5 in the drivers’ standings, but the season ended with a bright spot at Interlagos as he qualified second and took victory, holding off the challenge of Raikkonen.

He moved to McLaren in 2005 to join the Finn but didn’t enjoy the feel of the car and struggled compared to his teammate in the early season, finishing in the lower points positions as Raikkonen was winning races.

However towards the end of the season he got used to the twitchy nature and when he finished, he finished well, with three wins in a seven race spell.

2006 was even more frustrating for the Colombian, and he announced he would leave F1 to race in NASCAR in 2007. However he wouldn’t see out the season, quitting a week after a first lap crash in the US Grand Prix.

Montoya was an emotional, passionate and rapidly quick driver, who never managed to find himself in the best car. He had spells where he was unbeatable, but ultimately too many mistakes prevented him from winning the F1 title, but he will go down as a superb driver nonetheless.

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