Sir Frank Williams has defended Juan-Pablo Montoya's driving after some questioned why the Colombian failed to challenge Schumacher's lead in the closing stages of the Italian Grand Prix.

Williams-BMW team owner Sir Frank Williams has defended Juan-Pablo Montoya's driving after some questioned why the Colombian failed to challenge Schumacher's lead in the closing stages of the Italian Grand Prix.


The Colombian chased Schumacher especially hard after the first round of pit stops, closing to within a second of the race leader at one point, and looked well set to challenge until the end. With over 70 per cent of the Monza lap run at full throttle, it is especially tough on engines and brakes and some wondered at Montoya not pushing Schumacher to run flat-out right to the end.


But Sir Frank said: "Juan didn't put a foot wrong. He challenged when he could, he got his head down when he had to and then he took the decision to get the car to the line in the final stint.


"Unless Michael had made a mistake or run out of brakes or had his engine go sour - because we understand it doesn't like being raced at 10/10ths - then he wouldn't have got him because Michael was quicker down the straight," he added.


Montoya seemed to lose heart after he lost time behind Heinz-Harald Frentzen's Ferrari-powered Sauber Petronas.


"I lost a about a year behind the Sauber," said a frustrated Montoya, "and then there was the second Jordan driver, I'm sorry but I've forgotten his name. He didn't get out of the way on the straight and then he braked early to let me by into a corner and I nearly drove into the back of him. I had been catching Michael by tenths and suddenly I was losing seconds, so it was all over. I would not have been able to pass him anyway."


Montoya is currently three points behind his rival in the drivers' world championship, but he thinks the final two races, at Indianapolis and Suzuka, will be more suited to the Williams-BMW package.


"The last two races are normal downforce circuits, so I think we'll be strong again, and McLaren and Renault will be too," said Montoya. "I think we came out of here with the most possible. If I couldn't win I had to finish second, which I did. I only lost two points to Michael, so it's not over."


Meanwhile, Williams-BMW's management also praised Marc Gene's performance in the Italian Grand Prix. The Spaniard, a former Minardi driver and current Williams-BMW tester, was unexpectedly called upon to replace the injured Ralf Schumacher on Saturday morning. On Sunday, he finished fifth, providing the team with four vital championship points.


BMW motorsport director Gerhard Berger said: "The true winner for me today was Marc Gene, who made the most of his chance and did an excellent job for the team today. What was very important given the championship situation was to bring both cars home in the points today."


Sam Michael, the team's chief operations engineer, added: "Marc did a fantastic job, considering the little time he had to prepare and showed a great pace in the race."


Gene was also pleased to score his best ever result in F1. "I am really happy," he said. "I think a good performance was to be expected, as I had once of the best cars on the grid.