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The movements of Juan Pablo Montoya

There are some reports in the German press suggesting that Juan Pablo Montoya may not stay next year at Williams, despite the fact that he has one more year to run on his contract.

It is believed that Montoya has already signed to drive for McLaren in 2005 and, although McLaren has signed drivers Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard for 2004, there appear to be attempts going on to get Montoya out of his Williams deal to let him replace Coulthard.

It has been suggested that it might be possible to get Montoya out of his Williams deal using the ruling of the European Court of Justice in December 1995 which upheld a case brought by little-known Belgian footballer Jean-Marc Bosman against the European football authorities as a result of a disputed transfer in 1990.

In that case Bosman brought his legal action against FC Liege - and later against the Belgian Football Federation and the European Football Association UEFA - on the grounds that UEFA-FIFA transfer rules had prevented his move to the French club, US Dunkerque even though his contract with Liege had expired. Bosman was not attacking the contract but rather the rule by which transfer fees were demanded by a club even when his contract had expired.

The European Court of Justice ruled that transfer fees directly affected a football player's access to employment in another EU country and so were obstacles to the free movement of workers and therefore illegal under Article 48 of the Treaty of Rome which guarantees the right of free movement for people within the Union.

This is unlikely to help Montoya as he is not an EU national, he is under a contract to BMW Williams and switching to McLaren would not be a cross-border deal as both teams are headquartered in Britain.

If Montoya does not wish to fulfil his contract with Williams he can sit out next year although this would probably constitute a breach of contract and he would then have to pay Williams. Depending on the wording of the contract, Williams might be able to leave him on the sidelines as long as he is still being paid. The team could ask that Montoya pay for his release from the contract (with money presumably being supplied by McLaren). This is not logical, however, as moving to what appears to be a less competitive team simply because there is more money available will brand Montoya with the wrong reputation.

There are also other issues involved as McLaren would also need to organize a settlement with Coulthard and there must come a point at which signing Montoya does not make financial sense if too much money is needed to achieve his release.

In such circumstances Williams would need to find a new driver but with third driver Marc Gene up to speed in testing and keeping sharp by racing in Formula Nissan, there is an immediate alternative for the Grove team.