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MAY 16, 2001

Ferrari and Montoya: the battle hots up

AFTER drawing heavy censure from Michael Schumacher for, in his view, causing their becoming entangled after battling for the lead in Austria, Williams driver Juan Pablo Montoya has told the reigning world champion to put up or shut up.

Montoya, who took the lead at the start of the Austrian Grand Prix, fell back into the clutches of the chasing Ferrari when his Michelin tires hit a plateau in their performance, according to the French tire boss Pierre Dupasquier. "We had foreseen that this might be the case. The grooved tires are at their best when new, but there follows a significant drop-off in performance, after which they recover their potential," he said.

What was not foreseen was how desperate Schumacher would be to try and pass the Colombian - around the outside of the tight right-handed Remus Kurve - or how far Montoya would go to honor the threat, leaving his braking to the last while off-line and holding Schumacher out until they were both off the circuit.

Ferrari's technical director Ross Brawn added to Schumacher's claim that it was 'a bit silly' by describing the incident as 'stupid'. He said: "If he had let Schumacher through, he would have lost one place, instead of six - that's not good racing."

Montoya remains unbowed by the Ferrari team however - particularly its team leader. In response to the idea of simply letting Michael past, as he would wish, the amiable Colombian was dismissive.

"If he thinks he has been granted, by divine grace, some right which allows him to overtake wherever he wants, I have news for him: he can forget it," Montoya said stoutly "He won't intimidate me, because I'm not as psychologically fragile as other drivers."