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SEPTEMBER 28, 2003

Why Montoya to McLaren may not be possible in 2004

The paddock in F1 continues to natter away about the possibility of Juan Pablo Montoya moving to McLaren at the end of this season, a year earlier than originally planned. The theory is that Montoya would move to McLaren and would be replaced at Williams by Mark Webber. He in turn would then be replaced at Jaguar by David Coulthard. Such a shuffle of drivers sounds logical given the wishes of those involved but the whole process appears to have stumbled over the fact that Webber has a long-term arrangement in place with Flavio Briatore and with Renault. At the moment Webber is contracted to Jaguar for 2004 and 2005 but our sources say that beyond that there is an option for him to join Renault in 2006 as team mate to Fernando Alonso. Whether this is a better move than switching to Williams is a matter for discussion but we hear that Briatore is refusing to do a deal over the Australian's future. This may be a negotiating position but for the moment at least it seems to have stopped all chance of the switch around. Coulthard, incidentally, is not thought to be interested in moving to Jaguar Racing.

None of this means that there will not be a Montoya to McLaren switch a year ahead of schedule but Williams currently has no obvious desire to sign anyone else. It could be that Marc Gene would step in to replace Montoya if the team decided that there was no point in trying to hold on to Montoya. The team is believed to be under pressure from its partners to hold on to Montoya because his high profile in the US is what they want.