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APRIL 12, 2001

Montoya surprised by start to the season

BMW-WILLIAMS driver Juan Pablo Montoya has sent the Formula One paddock into a spin with his impressive performance in the Brazilian Grand Prix, but the Colombian has admitted that he is surprised at the way he has started his debut season in the sport.

Montoya is yet to score a point, but he drove well in Australia before an engine problem ended his race after 40 laps and he never got a chance to shine in Malaysia as a rain downpour forced him into a spin after just four laps.

But after his wonderful show at Interlagos, where he overtook Michael Schumacher's Ferrari and led for 35 laps before he was shunted out by the Arrows of Jos Verstappen, he has made everyone stand up and take notice.

Ahead of this weekend's San Marino Grand Prix, Montoya is expected to repeat that Brazil performance. He has attempted to quell the rising levels of expectation by saying that he is shocked at his F1 performances so far.

"I think it has been a bit of a surprise for everybody, including myself," said Montoya. "I was expecting through the year to get better and better and definitely still think there is a lot more to come, and a lot more to learn.

"You can't really say at this point that you can maximize everything after three races. I still make loads of mistakes and there are still things to improve."

Montoya won the ChampCar series in 1999 and the prestigious Indianapolis 500 last year, but despite the accolades and the plaudits he is humble enough to admit that he is still a relative novice in the world of Grand Prix racing.

He added: "The speed is there but I need to learn to maximize. I think one of the big things I need to learn is to qualify using the four runs.

"One thing is being able to be quick, but you need to learn to be quick all of the time consistently. At the point where I am, I can be quick but I can make mistakes quite easily as well because this is a new car for me and everywhere I am going is a bit of a new track.

"There are factors I need to learn to control to be consistently at the top."