Stock cars should suit unpredictable Colombian 'monster'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 July, 2006, 12:00am

Richard Drew

So the 'monster' is moving on. Juan Pablo Montoya, the Colombian whose antics on the track can be pretty unpredictable, has made a career move right out of left field. He's decided to leave F1 and head over to the United States and take part in Nascar in 2007.

Make no mistake; it's an odd decision to go from the pinnacle of open-wheel racing to racing stock cars around an oval.

Like others, I've been scratching my head trying to work out why he decided to abandon F1, and as yet I've not come up with one good reason.

There are many in F1 who will be glad to see the back of him. His Latin temperament has got him into hot water both on the racetrack and with the people he has worked with.

In races he has on more than one occasion been the catalyst for chaos. The most recent example was the US Grand Prix, where we only had to wait for the second corner.

His braking caused a pile-up that took out teammate Kimi Raikkonen and triggered the chain of events that resulted in Nick Heidfeld's barrel roll. Kimi wasn't best pleased that he tried to shift the blame onto him and even though McLaren boss Ron Dennis defended the Colombian, team and driver became a little more divorced from one another.

It was no wonder the team hadn't taken up the option of keeping him for next year.

Montoya has a track history of upsetting his employers. His falling out with Williams, you may remember, was a little more spectacular. Three years ago at the French Grand Prix he thought the team's refuelling strategy had favoured his teammate, Ralf Schumacher, who went on to beat him to the win. There was a furious tirade on the radio from Montoya, using language that can't be repeated, and he was informed in no uncertain terms he had been in the wrong. Soon afterwards he joined McLaren.

But I for one am really sad to see him go, probably for exactly the same reasons that many in F1 are breathing a sigh of relief.

He was fiery, he didn't mind upsetting people and he drove equally directly, not minding whose feathers he ruffled.

It might have caused racing incidents, but that's what us punters like to see - a bit of action. Let's be honest, fans pay good money to see a bit of aggro on the track. Even his critics couldn't say he lacked commitment and a bit of good old fashioned fire in his belly. Which is why, in the end, it's a waste of talent and a big cop-out to leave Formula One. He certainly had the talent.

On his day he could match anyone, even his super fast teammate Raikkonen and he could show other drivers what overtaking was all about. But that talent only ever shone through in patches and only brought scant reward, seven grand prix victories in a career that started in 2001.

Montoya's options for next year seemed to be narrowing. With McLaren looking elsewhere for a partner to Fernando Alonso (assuming Raikkonen is on his way to another team), Red Bull looked favourites to take him.

But it seemed their interest was on the wane, and that left the Columbian scratching around for a team to match his ambitions, and pay packet.

Rumours are he turned down a move to Williams with Mark Webber moving the other way. Perhaps he felt he'd burnt his bridges there.

So he actually picked up the phone and called his old mate Chip Ganassi. He'd won the Indy 500 in 2000 for him, but that was in an open wheeled IRL car.

This will be something completely alien to Montoya, a strange car in a strange series - it could almost be a completely different sport.

The few who have tried the transition have fared badly by and large. Still the 'monster' is no stranger to crashing into other cars, so perhaps stock cars will suit him. Even so, I'm going to miss him.