|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
F1 not always so fast
Alan Baldwin | June 24, 2004 23:24 IST
On a warm Saturday afternoon at Indianapolis, Juan Pablo Montoya sounded laid back and unconcerned.
No great revelations, just light banter as the Williams driver considered the surprises thrown up by a Formula One championship dominated by Ferrari and Michael Schumacher.
"(The) BAR (racing team) looked quite strong in pre-season testing but I'm surprised by them," Montoya said. "They just keep on developing and they've also done a very good job just to bring pace into the car and that's quite impressive to see."
It was a very different Montoya 24 hours later.
Disqualified after a gruelling 57 of the 73 laps for being two seconds too slow to leave the grid as he ran for a spare car before the race had even started, Montoya was exasperated at the decision and uncommunicative.
"No, no, don't even bother. I can't do it," was his immediate response to questions after risking his neck for nothing on an afternoon that saw German team mate Ralf Schumacher crash out and taken away by ambulance.
"Ask them. Ask them what would have happened if I'd crashed like Ralf. I could be sitting in a hospital right now just like Ralf," he added.
Sometimes even the fastest of sports can seem painfully slow and Formula One was no exception on Sunday.
Schumacher's crash -- from which he escaped without serious injury -- overshadowed Sunday's race with driver lying in the wrecked car for what seemed an age before doctors arrived on the scene.
Montoya's late exclusion, his second in a row, contributed to the sense of unease. Williams had no quarrel with the sanction because the rule was black and white. They were disappointed that it took so long to be decided.
The official, not unreasonable, explanation was that all the video evidence had to be reviewed by the race director and stewards before such an irrevocable decision as a disqualification could be made.
"Set that against a background of multiple race incidents -- an 'off' involving four cars on the first lap, two safety car deployments, two big individual crashes...and you could perhaps understand why reviewing the Juan Pablo incident took time," an FIA spokesman said.
Montoya, the man much of the crowd had paid to see, was also on the receiving end of a highly controversial drive-through penalty at the same circuit last year that ended his championship hopes.
That may not have been a factor in the deliberations on Sunday but the end result was that once again spectators were left bemused and angry by a stewards' decision.
"That was the biggest idiocy I've ever seen," declared former champion Niki Lauda, now a television commentator for Germany's RTL network.
"Why did they (the stewards) let him drive for an hour and then pull him out of the race? All they had to do was read the rules."
Others complained that the incident had distorted the way their race was run.
Montoya had started from the pit lane on a full fuel load after his first-choice race car could not be fired up on the grid and ran as high as second before the black flag was finally waved to end his challenge.
"It was very strange," said BAR's Briton Jenson Button. "Either disqualify him at the beginning or don't bother. It just messes other people's races up really.
"It did change ours. Obviously he didn't have to make a stop as early as everyone else.
"If we had pitted when everyone else did, we would have been stuck behind him but if he wasn't there, we wouldn't have been."
Formula One: The Complete Coverage