Debut & Williams (2001-2004)
Montoya exploded into the world of Formula 1 back in 2001 after it was announced he would partner Ralf Schumacher at the Williams BMW team. Much hype and expectations were placed on his shoulders given his performance in other formulas of racing.
In just his first few races he managed to put a fantastic over take on Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari for the lead of the 2001 Brazilian GP. He looked like he might win the race until he was hit by Jos Verstappen, whilst lapping him. He got his first finish at the Spanish GP where he came in a strong second. He also managed to claim 3 Pole Position’s in his debut season, as well as a maiden win at the 2001 Italian GP held at Monza.
Hopes were high for Montoya going into 2002, that he might be able to capitalise on his success and become a championship challenger. However the Ferrari’s dominance was too much for the Columbian to match. He did manage to take 7 Pole Positions during the season, 5 of which came back to back, but was unable to translate any of this into a single race win.
2003 saw slow development from the Williams team, but by mid season it was by far the car of the season. Montoya was able to become a serious title contender after stealing victory at the Monaco GP from McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen. He went onto completely dominate the German GP, taking Pole Position and winning by over a minute from 2nd placed David Coulthard. However improvements in the Ferrari and a mistake by Montoya in the 2003 US GP took the Columbian out of the running for the crown. He did finish a strong 3rd in the championship, but it could have been so much more.
It was announced at the end of 2003 that Montoya would move to McLaren for 2005; this had a destabilising effect on his relationship at Williams for 2004, which turned out to be Montoya’s most disappointing year to date. A massively underperforming package from Williams left Montoya struggling for strong results. He was disqualified from both the 2004 Canadian GP as well as the 2004 United States GP. He did end the season on a high note by winning the final race at Brazil from soon to be new team mate Kimi Raikkonen.
2005 saw a slow start for Montoya as the new McLaren lacked pace. Montoya’s poor performances were helped any further by a injury he suffered before the 2005 Bahrain GP that forced him to miss that race and the following race at San Marino. The official reason for his injury was given to a tennis accident, however speculation floated around that it was in fact caused by a motorcycle accident. Red Bull’s David Coulthard more jokingly and rather unsympathetically said that “this is what happens when fat people try to get fit.”
In any case, even after Montoya’s return to racing at the Spanish GP, he was completely out classed by his team mate Raikkonen who at this stage was fighting for the title. At the 2005 Monaco GP he was accused of trying to brake-test his old team mate a Williams Ralf Schumacher and for causing g a 4 car pill up in practising. As a result he was thrown to the back of the grid in qualifying. Later Montoya was blacked flagged at the 2005 Canadian GP for exiting the pit lane while it was closed.
The words ‘costly mistake’ and ‘Montoya’ seemed to be fitting in the same sentence more often as the 2005 season progressed. McLaren had the fastest car but on many occasions he was unable to help his team mate Raikkonen. A driveshaft failure at the Hungarian GP cost him the win, whilst at the Belgium GP a late on collision with the Williams of Pizzonia ended McLaren’s hopes for their first 1-2 finish since 2000.
Montoya did manage to win two races for McLaren though, at the British and Italian GP’s. However this only managed to put him in a very distant overall 4th place in the Driver’s Championship.
Hopes for a fight back to the Montoya of old in 2006 were very quickly dashed as the new McLaren was not up to pare of the 2005 model. Hopes of a podium at the 2006 Australian GP were dashed by a couple of mistakes. A spin at the end of the formation lap nearly cost him his grid position, but his race was ended late on after going wide coming out of the last corner and a rumbling over the curbs caused his McLaren to shut down. Montoya’s best result of the season came at the Monaco GP, where he finished 2nd to Renault’s Fernando Alonso. This turned out to be his only visit to the podium in 2006.
After taking out his team mate Raikkonen at the start of the 2006 United States GP, Montoya and McLaren parted ways.
The Columbian returned to America to take up a drive in NASCAR series. He was replaced at McLaren for the rest of 2006 by the McLaren Test Driver Pedro De la Rosa. Montoya has since admitted he has no desire to return to racing in Formula 1.