Feature: Montoya is Still the Man

Juan Pablo Montoya was, in tabloid terms at least, the man who broke the bank in Monte Carlo last weekend.

Feature: Montoya is Still the Man

Juan Pablo Montoya was, in tabloid terms at least, the man who broke the bank in Monte Carlo last weekend.

By handing Williams their first Monaco Grand Prix win in 20 years, the Colombian also went a considerable way to answering those critics who had begun to wonder out loud whether he was the real deal.

When he came to Formula One, Montoya was heralded as a CART champion, an Indianapolis 500 winner and plain-talking action man whose talents made him the main threat to Michael Schumacher's reign as World Champion. It has not quite worked out that way.

Until Monaco, Montoya had only one win to his credit. Seven poles last year came to nothing and when he let a season-opening win in Australia slip through his hands in March, questions began to be asked.

Did the 27-year-old have the temperament to reach the top, some wondered. Was he over-hyped?

The emergence of Finland's Kimi Raikkonen, only 23 but still the Championship leader for McLaren, and 21-year-old Spaniard Fernando Alonso threatened to take away Montoya's 'man most likely' tag.

Changed Approach

His response was to raise his game, listen to the criticism and act on it. By Sunday night, Williams's blank run was history and the talk was once again of Ferrari targeting Montoya as Schumacher's eventual replacement.

"His approach has definitely changed this year," Williams chief operations engineer Sam Michael told Autosport magazine this week. "I have had a few discussions with him and he is smart enough to realise himself that he had to do it.

"If you look at the way he goes testing now, he is very methodical and he is doing a good job.

"This win will certainly help his confidence. He puts an enormous amount of pressure on himself because he wants to win races and the Championship. The pressure won't ease at all until he does that."

Sunday was an important day for Montoya, one that he may look back on as a turning point. It will be surprising if he takes anything like as long to collect his third win. The weekend was also one that will stand out in the career of BAR's Jenson Button, the youngster who was replaced by Montoya at Williams.

The Briton too ended a long run, although not with the same positive outcome as the Colombian, with the first major accident of his 58 race career. Button has also come in for his share of criticism since being thrown in at the deep end as a 20-year-old.

He enjoys all the trappings of success, the yacht and millionaire lifestyle, while still waiting for his first podium finish. Meanwhile, Raikkonen is a winner at the same age and Alonso has had a handful of top three placings.

Monaco could have been his moment. Instead, he will have more pressure than ever at next week's Canadian Grand Prix.

Button has said that the crash did not scare him but the real test will come when he gets back into the car. Although the team hoped it would be this week, that will not now happen until Friday the 13th of June.

"If the first crash doesn't affect you then you're okay for the rest of your career," said Canadian teammate Jacques Villeneuve.

But compatriot Justin Wilson, who drove head-on into a wall at Brands Hatch as a 16-year-old and broke his leg and a wrist, warned Button not to expect everything to feel exactly as before.

"It does open your eyes a bit," said the Minardi driver. "You get used to thinking that these cars are invincible and that you're fine and nothing is going to happen. This does make you realise that yes, if something happens at these kinds of speed then it's going to hurt."

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