Juan-Pablo Montoya’s pass on Michael Schumacher during the European Grand Prix was one of the most audacious moves of the season and, luckily for the team, it paid off, comments CAR deputy editor John Bentley.
“Juan would have had a go,” Frank Williams is reputed to have said after his cars finished a disappointing second and third – with Ralf Schumacher ahead of the Colombian, right under the rear wing of Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari – at the Canadian Grand Prix.
Whether Frank said them or not, the words proved to be prophetic, because Montoya’s pass on Michael during the European Grand Prix at the Nürburgring was one of the most audacious moves of the season and, luckily for the team, it paid off.
Ralf, meanwhile, was redressing another criticism aimed at him after Montreal, where he had lost the lead to his brother due to slower in and out laps around his first pit stop. At the Eifel circuit, a track that is close to his home town, he made no mistake, blitzing all-comers, including leader Kimi Raïkkönen, in this aspect of racecraft.
An action-filled European Grand Prix saw a number of incidents that will leave their mark on the 2003 season, and possibly also on the title chase. The first was the engine failure on Raïkkönen’s McLaren. After initially looking as though he was about to score a dominant victory, the Finn’s title hopes seemed to have gone up in smoke when his Mercedes V10 imploded.
Enter Montoya, who forced points leader Michael Schumacher into an untypical error, thus limiting the advantage gained by the Ferrari driver as a result of Kimi’s misfortune. So all is not lost for either McLaren or Williams – the latter finding itself up to second in the constructors’ standings as a result of the Nürburgring one-two – as teams prepare for next week’s French Grand Prix.
The other incident that will be talked about for many years is the near clash between Alonso and Coulthard at the Veedol chicane. Was Alonso at fault for covering the line despite his failing brakes, as some of our TV experts have commented? I think not – David Coulthard must have realised the Renault was stricken, and should have anticipated something like that happening.
Coulthard certainly avoided a major accident by jinking to the right, a move that testifies to his experience and presence of mind. It was a nasty moment, certainly – but that’s what gravel traps and run-off areas are for. – John Bentley