Why the Colombian is glad to be back at the wheel
How does it feel to watch someone else drive your Formula One car while you are stuck at home? That was the situation facing McLarens Juan Pablo Montoya after he fractured his shoulder back in March. The Colombian was forced to sit out the Bahrain and San Marino Grands Prix, as first Pedro de la Rosa and then Alexander Wurz took his place, both to critical acclaim.
However, Montoya was back in the paddock in Barcelona, looking as relaxed and confident as ever, even after that heavy shunt in Friday practice. He overcame the handicap of running first in Saturday qualifying to take seventh on the grid, then survived an eventful race (including spinning through 360 degrees without losing a place) to score points on his Grand Prix return.
So how had he coped with life away from such drama and excitement? We asked that very question. Aside from the fact that having an accident is never a very appealing occasion I had time to rethink my situation, said Montoya philosophically.
Ironically, from a personal perspective, the timing of Montoyas accident could not have been better. While he was recuperating from his shoulder injury, wife Connie was giving birth to their first child.
The best thing was that my son Sebastian was able to get to know his father - this was my most precious experience, said a proud Montoya. Normally the test program at beginning of the season is so demanding that privacy gets a little short, so I really enjoyed being there at the first couple of weeks in the life of my son.
Even so, racing is Montoyas life, so surely it must have been pretty strange watching a Grand Prix on television, knowing that you should have been in it? I am so long into this business that I know to live with the fact that something can happen out of the blue - that you are forced to lay low sometimes - so it was no big deal, was the calm response.
Just as team mate Kimi Raikkonen is emerging as Fernando Alonsos biggest championship threat, an enforced two-race absence has surely ended Montoyas title hopes. That must hurt? No, because in this time (away) the car has made some stunning improvements, so I know now that we are on the right track, insisted Montoya. That future lies ahead.
So, physical fitness restored, the McLaren star was obviously thrilled to get back in the cockpit on Friday morning in Barcelona, though when he got out of it in the afternoon, the car was not in good shape. Did he fear the same might be said of him? No, because it was just a normal race accident that had no impact on me, was his reply. Obviously, I am a racer and here is where I belong.
But has that sense of belonging, in an undeniably dangerous sport, diminished with the arrival of fatherhood? Will the added responsibility on Montoyas shoulders change his attitude to racing? Not at all, he said. If it would, I would probably change my job! Let's hope he never does.