Michael ready for Montoya

Michael Schumacher, Japanese GP 2001

Michael Schumacher, Japanese GP 2001 

 © The Cahier Archive

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER has reacted to the growing feeling that he has singled out Juan Pablo Montoya as a challenger to his current pre-eminence in Formula 1.

The reigning world champion, who took this year's title with nine victories and a record points haul, has long considered Mika Hakkinen his main rival on the track, but the Finn's sabbatical year in 2002 has come as David Coulthard's performances at McLaren have strengthened and a raft of new contenders such as Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen, Takuma Sato and Felipe Massa have emerged with their entire careers ahead of them.

Principal among the threats however is the Williams team, which won four races in 2001. Michael's brother Ralf won three races but it is the Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya whose aggressive style and dominant two-year career in American CART racing who has become generally perceived as the stronger of the Williams pairing as the 2001 season progressed.

Schumacher appeared to be going out of his way to play down Montoya's role, to the point of out-psyching his rival in the way he did with previous Williams rivals Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve. By suggesting that he couldn't see where the next contender would come from and, if from Williams, it would be his brother Schumacher has been accused of cold-shouldering the Colombian, which he now vehemently denies.

"There are too many reports talking of a rivalry between us, particularly in the South American press," he said. "All I care to say is that I am more than ready to compete with him on the track next year, and that undoubtedly he is a great driver."

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