Juan Pablo Montoya
Two-time Indy 500 winner/IMSA driver with Team Penske
Juan Pablo Montoya, two-time Indy 500 champion and current IMSA driver with Team Penske, is the latest online driving instructor for SAFEisFAST.com.
Montoya’s extensive motorsport career spans from being CART champion in 1999, to competing in Formula 1, and in NASCAR with Chip Ganassi Racing.
He won the Monaco Grand Prix with the WilliamsF1 team in 2003, before going on to race for McLaren between 2005 and 2006. After eight seasons in NASCAR, Montoya made a comeback to US single-seater racing with Team Penske in IndyCar in 2014, and in 2015 won the Indy 500 for a second time.
At the end of the 2016 season he quit IndyCar, and has since won the Race of Champions Nations Cup for Team Colombia and competed in the Daytona 24 hours. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)
Juan Pablo Montoya answers your questions!
You have raced in several major series throughout your career (IndyCar, Formula 1, NASCAR, and now sports cars). From a pure driving standpoint, which one series (or even car) was the most satisfying to drive, and why?
I think every series has its plus and minus. When you think about it, Formula 1 is like “Wow!” But when you actually live Formula 1 you don’t get to experience all that wow. I remember Red Bull used to have that thing called The Red Bulletin, and when they started it they used to give it away for free on the weekends and then you would go and see the picture of the people at the races and you’d say “Oh my god! There is this actor, and this actor…” and you’d never get to see them, because you get up in the morning, then you have a meeting, and then you’re eating, and then you get a massage, and then you drive the car. So I never really got to experience any of the craziness of Formula 1, and then I went to the other extreme that is NASCAR and it’s like “Yee-haw” every week! But it’s cool you know? I really enjoyed it. There are a lot of races and you don’t get to understand until you leave NASCAR, how much else you are missing in life. It’s great racing, it’s a great series, but when you have a family with kids… I love racing don’t get me wrong, but there is a lot more to life than racing. When I had the opportunity to come to IndyCar with Penske and win the Indy 500 and fight for the championship and everything, it was great and to do sports cars with Acura, it’s been an amazing experience. You know, you look at the installations and how everything is done, it just looks so Formula 1 but with a great atmosphere.
You’ve been successful in almost every series you’ve raced in. Is there a trick, something in your driving style, or maybe in your attitude that allows you to be successful in multiple disciplines?
I think how I manage the brake pressure and the attitude of the car, I can really understand what the attitude of the car is and how it needs to be driven. I think that allows me to adapt to a lot of race cars.
What’s the biggest difference between an IndyCar and an F1 car? I.e. in terms of grip, over/understeer, setup complexity?
Both I think are great race cars, both a lot of fun to drive, but the difference is the IndyCar is very much a one-off car. It’s like if you put everyone in a Mercedes on a Formula 1 grid but with two engines. So it makes it a lot more even, but since it’s a spec series there is a lot less things you can develop and work on. Whereas in Formula 1 there is really no limit to what you can develop and what you can create, so that’s the main difference.
Hi JPM! How hard has it been to adapt from driving an IndyCar to driving a sports car? Good luck at Sebring!
Not at all, I feel more comfortable driving the sports cars right now than I did in the IndyCar. I think it suits more my driving style a bit more, I think it feels more like the Formula 1 cars I used to drive, like the Williams was really well balanced and a lot of fun to drive.
What helped you become fearless and make gutsy moves throughout your career such as the ‘pass in the grass’ in your 2015 Indianapolis 500 win?
I don’t think they’re gutsy! I never felt that I was putting myself at risk or anything when I’m making those moves. For me it was more of a calculated move, I think putting the wheel on the grass, I was trying to go as slow as I can and I went a little too low. It wasn’t so much gutsy as a mistake, but I saved it and it wasn’t bad. But it’s like they say you know? How bad do you want it? And how far are you willing to go to take it?
What’s been your favourite and/or best race in the rain?
I don’t know! I’ve done quite a few rain races and they’ve been good, I think the best experience was in the damp in Formula 1 at Spa 2002. We went from wet tyres to slick tyres in the last run and you’re trying to push as hard as you can with every little dry patch and just hoping the thing doesn’t step out. And I think I was on pole by like, a second!
Hi Juan. This is a stock car related question. In general, would the preferred line around an oval be almost like a double apex (turn in early, hug white line around corner. Based off what I’ve seen) do they let the banking turn/slow the car, then on flat tracks actually use like a double apex in a way?
No, like for me with flat tracks you want to make a diamond, like if you call that a double apex; low entry and you want to apex the middle of the race track. But it really depends on how the car is handling, some cars can roll through the middle and there are tracks where you have to rim ride. I thought that was one of the coolest things in NASCAR when you had to run the wall, because you’re driving straight at it and hoping the thing would stick. The first time I did that was at Atlanta and I was really good at it! I had a shot at the win actually.
Hi my name is Tommy, my uncle worked on your pit crew when you guys won the Indy 500 in 2000! What advice do you have for a driver looking to get into racing?
I think it depends where you want to go in the roots. Do you want to be a open wheel guy? Do you want to be a stock car guy? And on the basis of that, where do you want to go? Because if you want to go to NASCAR you probably have to start with dirt or those small ovals, like Bandoleros and all those things. Whereas if you want to go into open wheel you have to do karting.
What is the difference between karting in the United States versus Europe? Is one better then the other? If so, why?
The level in Europe is higher. It’s tougher, meaner, it’s very different because the tires are very different. The tracks have a lot of rubber, so it’s tough. My kid had some experience in Europe, and you know we win a lot of races here and we go there and are competitive, but he still struggles and is not as comfortable as he is here. He goes out here and knows exactly how to drive it, but that style there (in Europe) doesn’t work. So he’s got to adapt, and in a way it’s good because if you look at the big picture you’ve got to learn to adapt to everything.
Did you ever have moments when a car, handling and track combination just didn’t click for you and wasn’t much fun driving at all? How do you overcome such moments?
Honestly I think this weekend (IMSA race at Sebring) has been a bit of that, it’s been tough because we’ve done a lot of testing, we’ve been really good here in the test and in the open test we were really good. Then we came to the race weekend and we have been struggling, and the only thing you can really do is sit down with the engineers, with the co-drivers and go through the car, understand the car and how we can make it better, and through the weekend we kept making it better. Finally we went out in qualifying, we calmed the car down. Yeah we have a little bit too much understeer, but it’s finally calm and good to see. It’s good to see you’re working with a good group of people, and one of the great things about Team Penske is how deep the team is, how much engineering background, how many great people are involved in the programme to make things better.
Hello Montoya! I’d like to say hello from Baja California! In your future plans is the possibility that you compete in BAJA 1000? I think that for a driver as versatile as you, it would be great, do not you think?
No. That was a simple answer! There is a fine line between bravery and stupidity!