Juan Pablo Montoya reveals details of his maiden Formula 1 win

Juan Pablo Montoya reveals details of his maiden Formula 1 win

After 14 races, 10 retirements and two second places, here he is. John Pablo.

This day, September 16, 2001There was no way his car’s engine was having trouble, the clutch failing, or an accident torpedoing success.

It didn’t matter that the 150,000 tifosi who invaded the National Autodrome of Monza gathered all their forces so that Ferrari stays with the victory.

Although they made a dent, neither the anguish of the attack on the Twin Towers, which occurred five days ago, nor the reserved prognosis of his former CART partner, Alex Zanardi, victim of a serious accident at the ‘EuroSpeedway the day before, could not be an obstacle.

Like every hero on his way, despite the challenges, Montoya knew how to put his assets at the service of destiny. And history has witnessed how he did it.

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One hour, 16 minutes, 58 seconds and 493 thousandths of brilliant handling with ingenious strategy led the Bogotan, four days after his 26th birthday, and in the middle of his father’s birthday, to climb into the top drawer of the Italian Grand Prixjust like his great reference, the Brazilian Ayrton Senna, in 1990 and 1992.

The Colombian anthem and flag invaded a Formula 1 stage for the first time.

It was “the day of eternal glory”, as José Clopatofsky wrote in these pages.

Juan Pablo Montoya’s smile represented the satisfaction of a people who saw one of their own triumph in the highest category of motorsport.

And if the pilot’s gestures could only convey joy, his inner feeling was one of “relief”.

This is what he ensures in a race to the past, in which EL TIEMPO acts as co-pilot.

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no surprise

Montoya’s first victory in Formula 1 came as no surprise to his team.

Until this day, Juan Pablo carried on his back the weight of having been Formula 3000 champion, Cart champion and winner of the legendary Indianapolis 500.

When he arrived in the marquee in 2001, the European media paid more attention to the debut of Spaniard Fernando Alonso and Finn Kimi Räikkönen, but he, so clear in his words, knew what he was talking about.

“I came to Formula 1 to win, not to be part of the procession”he said at the time.

Thinking back to that first season, the Brazilian Grand Prix appears in Montoya’s memory, in which an attack by the Dutchman Jos Verstappen on the 33rd lap frustrated his intentions after an anthology in front of Michael Schumacher, and the German Grand Prix, in which some engine problems forced him to retire while leading the race.

“Until that day from Monza, we were really very close. The car had not helped on several occasions. This period of the engine in Germany, screwed up in the tanking, was very rough. Things had happened… –recalls Montoya before giving the green flag in memory of the long-awaited day– But then he saw the victory and we breathed.

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the long-awaited day

To the surprise of those who followed Montoya’s first victory in Formula 1, The feat began in the most unexpected way: by accident.

“People don’t know, but that day I crashed in the morning when I arrived at the circuit. My wife doesn’t remember (laughs), but it was at a roundabout coming up. Before entering the roundabout I saw that no one was coming and I assumed that a man in front had left and, well, no. We went there to give…”Juan Pablo confesses to this newspaper.

The pilot says, very in his own way, that the fall was far from affecting him because he was focused on the race. Then, on the circuit, in the Williams uniform, the goal was to make his third pole position effective and achieve victory on a circuit that suited his driving style on the long straights.

However, things did not start in the best way.

Late on lap eight, Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello, a latent threat, managed to pass Montoya after failing to brake in a corner.

And for more pressure, the native of Bogota was left between the Brazilian and Michael Schumacher, the expected champion.

“I damaged one of the rear tires from skidding too much and that’s where Rubens passed me,” said Montoya, who withstood Schumacher’s attacks.

with walking, the tire stabilized and Juan Pablo was able to continue his race.

On lap 18, Schumacher came to a stop and the Bogota native took a breather. Then it was the turn of Barrichello who, with a slow stoppage of 16.3 seconds, allowed Montoya to regain the lead. On the 29th lap, it was the turn of Juan Pablo to stop, who, on his ascent, was third, behind the Schumacher brothers.

Ralf, with whom he shared lines at Williams, pitted around the 36th lap. Michael, out of gas, made his second stop afterwards. And then the corner, with 13 laps to go, went to Barrichello, who gave up 6.4 seconds at his stop to refuel.

At the moment, two races, the one that was seen on the circuit and the one that Montoya experienced in his head.

“The story was complicated because the Michelin tires we brought were very fast at the start of the race, but at the end they left a lot of them. Rubens was very close, but we had enough speed to win. He was catching us, yes, but in the end, I was calculating in my head which tenths I took per lap and which ones I had left. He repeated to me: ‘We’re fine, we’re fine'”recalls Jean-Paul.

After defending the difference came the image that Colombia recorded: Montoya raising his fist from his vehicle after driving “a lo berraco”, as Germán Mejía recounted, and the memorable climb to the podium.

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A celebration that, in the audience, his girlfriend (now wife), Connie Freydell, and his birthday dad, Pablo, lived on the surface.

“The victory was very special. but more than happiness what I felt was relief. We finally won, but it was a very strange week, the 9/11 thing, the Zanardi thing, my dad had his birthday, the same day, but a year ago I had won my last race in Cart, I already had the ring to get engaged to Connie in three days… there was a lot going on,” Montoya confesses.

At the end the anthem sounded, the flag was raised and Juan Pablo, in the middle of his teammate Ralf’s long face, celebrated having gone through a difficult day in which there was usually little reason for the rest of the world to celebrate. For it, the traditional bottle of champagne has not been opened. And 21 years later, it’s still intact.

“I think it’s the only bottle in Formula 1 that hasn’t been opened. That day I signed it and kept it. Over time I packed it up and I I have it at my house, in Miami, in the garage, with all the memories of the races “explains Jean-Paul.

There’s Montoya for a while

After this victory, Montoya took six more victories in F-1 and finished third in the world championships in 2003 and 2004. In this race, Monza retains a special place.

That win in 2001 was a very special start for me. for everything you mentioned. Monza gave me a lot of things, then I went to win there with McLaren, I did three poles, I set the fastest lap record that Hamilton broke in 2018…, we got it all there,” admits Juan Pablo.

As for the next Colombian to claim a Formula 1 victory, Juan Pablo says he has the right one: Sebastián, his son.

“Sebas does things very well. With the support of Claro and all its sponsors, we are working on something great for next year. What is coming for him is fantastic and we will surely see a Montoya win again,” says Juan Pablo, whose birthday is September 20. Date which, with the background of his father, deserves to be taken into account for the future of Sébastien. It remains to be seen whether the calendar gives us time to wait.

(2023 is clear: Sebastián Montoya does anything: “Next year I hope to be in Formula 3”).


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