A retrospective - Montoyas Formula One career 11 Jul 2006
Despite seven wins and 307 world championship points, many will remember Juan Pablo Montoyas Formula One career as one of unfulfilled promise. So, as the Colombian bids farewell to Formula One racing for a new seat in NASCAR, we thought wed take a look back at the highs and lows of his career as a Formula One driver.
Montoya signed for BMW Williams in 2001, amidst significant speculation that he had the potential to be a great Formula One driver. He had come to Formula One with a huge reputation, after winning in Formula Renault, Barber Dodge, Formula Vauxhall, Formula 3 and Formula 3000, before moving to the United States to dominate the CART ChampCar series in 1999 with Chip Ganassi Racing and then win the following years Indianapolis 500 for the team at his first attempt.
During the third race of the season - in Interlagos, Brazil - Montoyas rumoured promise seemed to be confirmed when he effortlessly overtook Michael Schumacher into the first corner to lead the race. He stayed on course to win until he was forced to retire after colliding with backmarker Jos Verstappen.
Throughout the rest of 2001, Montoya's stature grew as his career developed and his first victory finally came at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, where he had started from pole position. But after significant reliability problems throughout the season, Montoya was forced to be satisfied with sixth in the title race - two places behind team mate Ralf Schumacher, who won three races.
Despite 2002 being Ferraris year, Montoya finished third in the championship behind Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, and was a genuine contender in 2003 for the world championship until the changes in tyre wear rulings at Monza hurt his campaign, and a clash with Rubens Barrichello at Indianapolis finally ended it.
But 2003 did have some highlights for Montoya. Once again at Hockenheim, he demonstrated his driving prowess by overtaking Michael Schumacher and scoring another victory to add to his dominant win at Monaco earlier in the season. He almost won the Japanese race but after electronic problems intervened, podium glory was Barrichellos. He repeated his third position in the title chase, behind Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen.
Montoyas last year with BMW Williams was in 2004, after an announcement that he planned to move to McLaren in 2005. The season was on the whole disappointing with no remarkable results although he did leave the team on a high note when he beat future team mate Kimi Raikkonen to win in Brazil.
Instead of being a springboard to greatness, Montoya's switch to McLaren was compromised early on in the season when he injured his shoulder. Although he missed several races, he bounced back to win the British Grand Prix and then added wins in Italy and Brazil.
Throughout 2005 Montoya was overshadowed by Raikkonen. However this season both he and the Finn have struggled to be competitive and it became increasingly clear that Montoya, a man with a reputation for genuine openness, a penchant for speaking his mind and a wry sense of humour would be seeking employment elsewhere for 2007.