Former Champions Support Montoya in Title Race

Juan Pablo Montoya has been backed to beat Michael Schumacher to this year's Formula One World Championship - as long as he can raise his game one more time.

Former Champions Support Montoya in Title Race

Juan Pablo Montoya has been backed to beat Michael Schumacher to this year's Formula One World Championship - as long as he can raise his game one more time.

Colombian Montoya, who has scorched to within six points of German Schumacher, is on a roll and after claiming podium finishes in every one of the last six races he looks like the favourite to overthrow the dominant Ferrari rival.

Former Formula One World Champion Sir Jackie Stewart, for whom Montoya raced earlier in his career, believes the Williams-BMW driver has made a step up in class this year and says he has what it takes to go all the way.

"Men of his calibre have an instinct for success if it is achievable," said Stewart. "That's why Juan has changed over the last four months - he has sensed that he must improve one more time. He is especially strong and dangerous now."

Montoya has gained 17 points on Schumacher in the last four races and stepped up a gear after receiving additional back-room help from chief engineer Frank Dernie at the last race in Germany. His pole position and utter domination of the Hockenheim race was made all the more galling for World Champion Schumacher because it left the German driver's flag-waving fans with a lack of cheer.

Ferrari are now on the back foot and, with four races to go, one of their former drivers Niki Lauda, who was recently boss of the Jaguar Formula One team, has tipped Schumacher to lose his crown.

"Montoya can become World Champion," said the Austrian. "In his current situation this is not only possible, but even probable. If Williams can maintain their form Ferrari are hardly going to stand a chance."

Schumacher and Ferrari have dominated the series for the last four years, winning three drivers' world titles and four constructors' crowns during a long period of success. But changes to the rules for this season as well as accelerated development from rivals McLaren-Mercedes and Williams-BMW have seen them drop back into the clutches of their rivals.

Dernie believes Montoya "knows he can fulfil his dream" of winning the world title and claims he is "fitter than ever" after an intensive season-long training campaign.

Emerson Fittipaldi, one of only four former South American World Champions, believes Montoya can become the fifth and added: "Juan Pablo has everything a Formula One World Champion requires. He is the type of racing driver who always knew of himself: 'You are the best so someday, when someone gives you a car to do the job, you're going to beat everybody'."

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