What Made Montoya Turn His Back on F1?

10 July 2006

Juan Pablo Montoya has announced that he’s leaving F1 at the end of the season to race in the American Nascar series. This is serious news.

Montoya has the credentials to justify his presence in F1: 7 wins, 30 podiums, 13 pole positions and 3rd place finishes in the F1 World Championship (in 2002 and 2003). On paper, this looks like a man who belongs in F1. The fact he’s leaving can only be for one of two reasons: he’s either become disillusioned with the whole F1 circus, or he was left without a competitive seat in 2007 — it’s no secret that Montoya’s McLaren contract expires at the end of 2006, and some might argue that he’s the wrong side of 30 to be getting another shot with a top team.

Montoya and McLaren haven’t gelled, for whatever reason. The McLaren MP4-21 is an understeering beast, a trait JPM dispises, and whilst Raikkonen made the best of the MP4-21 last season on his way to winning 7 races, Montoya managed just three wins and 72 fewer points than Kimi.

So earlier in the year when contracts for 2007 and beyond were being discussed, many thought Montoya was heading out of McLaren (to be replaced by Alonso) perhaps ending up at Red Bull or Toyota. Montoya himself said nothing of his contractual situation, save that he ‘had numerous options’ to stay in F1.

I doubt that many people thought he would actually leave F1 though. Sure, there was speculation that he may hook up with Chip Ganassi (with whom he won his Indy 500 and CART titles) in IndyCar, and Nigel Roebuck hinted in his weekly column a week or so ago that NASCAR might appeal to JPM, but few actually thought a driver of Montoya’s calibre would be allowed to slip out of F1 without a competitive drive.

When asked by Autosport “What was the final straw in leaving Formula One and how did you justify taking a pay cut?” Montoya responded thus:

“I don’t think you’re going to be happy getting more money and being miserable all day. When I called Chip I said, ‘Chip you know what. I want to come back racing, and I think the best place to do racing is here (NASCAR).

“It’s not how many millions you’re making or how much money you’re making. It’s a matter of three years down the line are you going to be excited about what you’re doing or not. I think three years from now when I look at my career I’m going to be happier here.”

Which seems to explain why Montoya is going to NASCAR: he’s bored with F1. It’s a total travesty that someone of Montoya’s calibre should be allowed to leave in this fashion when a driver such as Ralf Schumacher is paid $stupid for crashing, moaning a lot and generally not being very good.

Tagged with Formula One

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