Both McLaren-Mercedes and Williams-BMW have denied that Juan Pablo Montoya will switch to McLaren in 2004, even though the Colombian seems highly likely to drive for Ron Dennis's team in 2005
Rumour was rife in the Indianapolis paddock over the weekend that Montoya would join Kimi Raikkonen at McLaren, forcing David Coulthard to leave for Jaguar to replace Mark Webber, who in turn would take Montoya's Williams seat.
Williams technical director Patrick Head said at Indianapolis: "We have a contract with Juan until the end of 2004 and there are no circumstances in which that will not be fulfilled."
Ron Dennis was a little more opaque when he said: "We have seven drivers contracted, most of which are contracted through the next three or four years, and I'm not going to list them. We have decided who's going to drive the cars in 2004 and that's all we are prepared to say at the moment."
Dennis was then asked to confirm that the two race drivers contracted, Coulthard and Raikkonen, are the two drivers he intends to start next season with...
"Absolutely," Dennis replied. "Crystal clear?"
Talking about how the situation could affect his long-term friendship with Frank Williams, Dennis explained: "In any friendship you have rules of engagement, put it that way. You might like the other guy's girlfriend and you might express the fact that you like her, but it's a question of how far you go. You know, based on the level of the friendship, exactly what you feel is right about how far you go in trying to dissuade her affections away from the other guy. That and it's how we conduct our business relationship.
"There are some things that we share openly and honestly. We keep each other informed about the level of sponsorship we receive from particular companies, for example, because it's important that we maintain a consistency of rate card. And, we certainly share views on F1. We try to align ourselves at all opportunities because it tends to protect each other's backs. But when it comes to our friendships we do not have a line that says we can't offer people jobs, etc, if it is in the interests of each other's companies.
"What we do is always talk about it. We don't present each other with a fait accompli or surprises. People might find that hard to believe but it is a tremendous relationship built primarily on mutual respect."
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