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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 July 2005, 20:29 GMT 21:29 UK
Montoya delivers
By Andrew Benson
BBC Sport at Silverstone

BRITISH GRAND PRIX
1 J Montoya (McLaren)
2 F Alonso (Renault)
3 K Raikkonen (McLaren)
4 G Fisichella (Renault)
5 J Button (BAR)
6 M Schumacher (Ferrari)
7 R Barrichello (Ferrari)
8 R Schumacher (Toyota)
Juan Pablo Montoya told his McLaren team before the start of the British Grand Prix that he was going to beat Fernando Alonso and win the race.

The Colombian delivered in style, producing the sort of committed drive, punctuated with a dash of breathtaking improvisation, that had been expected of him since he joined McLaren at the start of the season.

At Silverstone Montoya was - as McLaren managing director Martin Whitmarsh said - "perfect".

But this performance has been a long time coming.

Tipped as a title contender this year, and one half of arguably the strongest driver line-up in Formula One, Montoya has spent a frustrating first half-season with McLaren.

There is no question that the 29-year-old with the dashing white smile is one of the most talented drivers in the sport.

But until Silverstone he had generally been made to look pretty ordinary by team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.

Montoya puts this down to a combination of circumstance and bad luck.

McLaren struggled to make their car work in qualifying at the start of the season, and its handling characteristics - a lack of front-end grip - were exactly what Montoya does not like.

By the time they had fixed the problem, Montoya had fractured his shoulder, playing tennis or falling off a motorbike, depending on who you believe.

Fernando couldn't risk too much and I could risk a bit more and that was where the race was won
Juan Pablo Montoya

That put him out of two races - and he was a long way from 100% fit when he returned at the Spanish Grand Prix in early May.

"In the first few races (after his comeback) I could hardly drive the car," Montoya said on Sunday.

"I used to have injections to try to get through the pain, but you're not really driving 100%.

"Even if you try, the pain is still there. It's not fantastic. Everything that could go wrong was going wrong."

He finally came good in Canada last month, where he would have won had McLaren not made a strategic error and called him in too late for a pit stop.

Seething with frustration, he then drove through a red light leaving the pit lane and was disqualified, which put him down the qualifying order for the French Grand Prix.

His retirement in Magny-Cours just over a week ago when on course for a podium finish gave him the same problem for Silverstone.

But he overcame it with a superb qualifying lap to put himself in with a chance of victory, which he grasped with a stunning overtaking move on Alonso at the 190mph Becketts corner on the first lap.

Montoya occasionally has weekends like this, when everything falls into place.

At those times, he is at least as good as any driver in the pit lane; his problem throughout his Grand Prix career has been not having those races often enough.

More often, something goes wrong - however tiny - that derails his weekend.

And the hard work and focus required of a driver to turn those situations around is not part of Montoya's basic character.

At Williams, where he drove from 2001 until last year as team-mate to Ralf Schumacher, that was bad enough.

But Raikkonen provides a much sterner challenge. Faster than the younger Schumacher, and much more consistent, the 25-year-old Finn races to his maximum potential virtually all the time.

McLaren team owner Ron Dennis has always been confident he can help Montoya reach that level and realise more of his abundant potential than he did at Williams.

He may well succeed, but he is not quite there yet.

Montoya ruined a potential podium place in Monaco by "brake-testing" Ralf Schumacher in practice and being demoted to the back of the grid; then there was the red mist leaving the pits in Canada.

On the plus side, the crowd of hangers-on and yes-men that accompanied Montoya to races last season has now gone.

He is now accompanied only by wife Connie, new-born son Sebastian, father Pablo, and that's about it.

And he has taken a positive attitude to Raikkonen's pace, concentrating merely on how to solve his own problems.

Perhaps Dennis' diligent work is beginning to pay off, for in the last few races things have turned around.

"It has been such a frustrating season," Montoya said on Sunday. "When I crossed the line, I was excited, but it was more of a relief than anything.

"It's great to show everybody that I can still win races."

No-one doubted that. The challenge facing Montoya now is to keep on doing it.




SEE ALSO
Montoya delight as risk pays off
10 Jul 05 |  Formula One
Alonso stays confident for title
10 Jul 05 |  Formula One
Downbeat Button fears for season
10 Jul 05 |  Formula One
Alonso takes pole at Silverstone
09 Jul 05 |  Formula One
Lapwatch: British GP qualifying
09 Jul 05 |  Formula One
Raikkonen loses 10 places on grid
09 Jul 05 |  Formula One
McLaren run show at Silverstone
08 Jul 05 |  Formula One
Schumacher suffers pit lane shunt
08 Jul 05 |  Formula One


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