Montoya: Williams are Looking Good for 2003

Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya has warned Formula One World Champions Ferrari to watch out for Williams next season.

Montoya: Williams are Looking Good for 2003

Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya has warned Formula One World Champions Ferrari to watch out for Williams next season.

"I was at the (Williams) factory on Friday and I've got to say that the steps are big for next year and hopefully we can give Ferrari a run for their money," he said at the annual Autosport Awards on Sunday night.

Montoya, presented with an award by Finland's 1982 champion Keke Rosberg for claiming the fastest qualifying lap in Formula One history at Monza in September, won no races despite starting on pole seven times last season.

While the Colombian was upbeat about his team's ability to narrow the gap after finishing runners-up in 2002, Ferrari made clear that they were doing everything to increase their domination after winning 15 of the 17 Grands Prix.

Their F2002 was named as the car of the year in the awards organised by Britain's Autosport magazine while five times World Champion Michael Schumacher once again won the International Racing Driver category.

Schumacher sent a video message, saying that he hoped to collect the award again and in person next year.

Ferrari designer Rory Byrne said that, although Schumacher had finished every race on the podium, the team had failed to get both their cars home in five of the races in 2002 and so "we're not perfect by any means."

"But we're working flat out," the South African said, "as hard as we can to make as big a step for next year just like anyone else. Certainly we're catchable, it just depends on the opposition."

Brawn Positive

Qualifying has changed to a one lap per driver format to liven up the show and lift flagging television viewing figures, and Ferrari's British technical director Ross Brawn welcomed the modification.

"I think that qualifying is going to be much more of an event in itself and that's positive," said Brawn after collecting his own award for technical excellence.

"There will be occasions when a good driver gets it wrong and ends up in the middle or at the back of the grid."

Australian Mark Webber, who scored two points with struggling Minardi on his debut in Australia and has now moved to Jaguar, was voted the Rookie of the Year by readers in an internet poll.

He thanked Montoya's teammate Ralf Schumacher "for taking out most of the boys at the first corner" in a pile-up that allowed him to finish a remarkable fifth in Melbourne.

Webber also shrugged off the sudden departure of Jaguar team boss Niki Lauda last week. "Obviously it was a little bit of a shock but in Formula One things can change very quickly," he said. "What has happened, happened and I'm here to drive."

In rallying, World Champions Peugeot and Finland's Marcus Grohnolm were awarded the top prizes.

Briton Jamie Green, 20 and runner-up in British Formula Renault, won the coveted Young Driver of the Year award along with a cheque for 75,000 pounds ($116,800) and the promise of a Formula One test drive with McLaren. Previous winners include McLaren's David Coulthard, BAR's Jenson Button and CART driver Dario Franchitti

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