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Aussie humour fails to amuse Montoya
March 03, 2004 10:38 IST
Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya stalked out of a pre-Australian Grand Prix news conference on Wednesday after it was hijacked by a satirical television sports show.
The fiery Formula One driver, a title favourite for BMW-powered Williams in the championship starting on Sunday, was not amused by the intervention by 'reporters' from the Channel Seven programme.
Bemused by one tongue-twisting question and another nonsensical one, the Williams driver sat open-mouthed as the same interrogator then stood up to answer a mobile phone call in a stage whisper.
When a second then stood up to answer his telephone in identical fashion after the first had left the room, the Williams driver's patience ran out.
"Either he stops or I walk off," Montoya warned.
The threat became real when the 'reporter' continued talking, asking the driver as a parting shot whether he might be free to play a round of golf with his mother.
Montoya, winner of two races last year, refused to be cajoled back into the room at Sandown International Raceway in southern Melbourne and drove off with his entourage after a brief altercation.
The Colombian, who joins Williams' rivals McLaren at the end of the season, was to have been the star guest at a day organised by team sponsor Allianz.
His schedule included driving a celebrity around the track after spending the afternoon with important clients of the insurance company. But that did not happen.
"I guess Juan didn't appreciate the Australian sense of humour," said Allianz Australia chief general manager Greg Fisher. "We had a lot of important corporate clients and basically it has ruined the day for them.
"It's part of reality TV I guess these days but Juan didn't appreciate the sense of humour and understandably rather than making any embarrassing comment he decided to end the press conference."
Before the interruption, the 28-year-old had given his thoughts on the season ahead and his chances of winning a title that he almost won last year.
"When it's your time, it's your time and it wasn't meant to be," he said of finishing third overall in 2003 after a three-way tussle for the championship with Ferrari's Michael Schumacher and McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen.
Montoya said the 'million dollar question' to be answered was the performance of his radical-looking new Williams after thousands of miles in testing to sort out reliability.
"I think that Ferrari are going to be strong again, like every year," said the Colombian of a team chasing their sixth successive constructors' crown while Schumacher goes for a record seventh drivers' title.
"Their reliability has always been very impressive, especially Michael's car, and I think that they will be as reliable as us.
"Our car is a big step forward from next year," he added.
"I think that if they are quicker than us in the first race it doesn't mean they are going to win the championship. I think if we win the first race it doesn't mean that's it.
"It's a long season, we have two more races than before and consistency in scoring points is going to be one of the keys."