More effort from Montoya seems to produce less result

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, hailed by many as the best thing to happen to F1 in recent years, is now struggling and needs to reappraise his approach to the Grand Prix business. The Colombian's free-wheeling, slightly laid-back approach drew much positive comment, particularly when he battled wheel-to-wheel with Schumacher in the Brazilian and Austrian Grands Prix.

Now, after two straight races have ended with his Williams-BMW FW23 firmly embedded in the barriers, those close to him are calling for him to ease back and take a slightly more structured approach to his driving style. In truth, this over-exuberance of youth is an essential characteristic of a driver who is set to go all the way to the top. But an even bigger test for the F1 rising star is how he comes to terms with the inevitable highs and lows of his freshman year and modifies his approach to accommodate that experience in his second year.

Williams Technical Director Patrick Head firmly believes that Montoya is a hugely talented driver with great natural flair. But he feels he has yet to harness that talent in order to channel it in the best direction. BMW Motorsport Director Gerhard Berger was even more candid, telling MOTORSPORT NEWS magazine that Montoya's "general performance is not where it should be."

The former Grand Prix ace added; "I'm convinced he is very talented, but he has to use his talent in the right way. I don't think he should look to Ralf or to Villeneuve or to anywhere exept to himself, and try to figure out where his weaknesses are, because it's repeating week by week.

"If you come to F1 as a star like he is, and he is a strong personality, of course it's very dangerous to end up believing that everything will be too easy."

Montoya's dilemma is intensified by the fact that Ralf Schumacher has cleared his mind and raised his game this season to the point where he is perceived as virtually on a par with his brother Michael and Mika Hakkinen in terms of star status. Schumi junior's victory in the Canadian Grand Prix was even more impressive than his flawless success at Imola and one can expect the Williams-BMW to display the same potential at Magny-Cours, Hockenheim, Spa and Monza.

The fundamental point attaching to this is that Montoya needs to be ready to take full advantage of his ticket on the BMW express when it comes to those super-fast circuits. The tracks will certainly play to the car's advantage - and indeed to the Michelin tyres' advantage - but the Williams drivers must be ready to play their maximum role. Ralf is completely ready; Juan Pablo is still getting his act together.

Montoya would also do well to avoid the sort of macho confrontation that he became embroiled in with Jacques Villeneuve during the drivers' briefing at Montreal. He certainly wouldn't want Jacques's judgement that CART is no longer a worthwhile training ground to be proved true so soon after Alex Zanardi's disastrous season with Williams in 1999.

In that case, of course, Zanardi was too timid and seemed under-committed. There is no doubting Montoya's commitment. He has all the raw materials to bake a truly competitive F1 cake. He just needs to concentrate more closely on the recipe book while he's doing it.

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