Former F1 star Juan Pablo Montoya – winner of seven races and known for his forthright views – speaks his mind in this revealing interview…
The Verizon IndyCar Series finale at Sonoma Raceway, home track of The International, was certainly drama-filled. The biggest story of the race was the surge of Scott Dixon from third in the points at the waiving of the green flag to being the 2015 champion at the checkered flag. Juan Pablo Montoya, who had lead the championship the entire season until the end of the final race, was understandably bitter. Running into his teammate and primary championship rival certainly didn’t do his championship aspirations any favours and is likely the event that permitted Dixon to make the leap from third to first. Rather than recognizing this enormous mistake as the primary reason for the championship slipping away, Montoya instead chose to lash out at Dixon and the double-points races this season, which included the season finale at Sonoma.
“Dixon had a shit season all year and had one good race, and we paid the penalty.” — Juan Pablo Montoya, #2 Penske Racing
While I agree with Montoya’s disdain for double-points races, I disagree that Dixon had a poor season singularly salvaged by his win this past Sunday. Double-points races have always seemed gimmicky, and without the double-points races this season, Montoya would have edged out Dixon by six points, 470 to 476 with all bonus points included. He also had a higher average finishing position than Dixon, 6.9 to 7.7. What are not included in this hypothetical, though, are the points from qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. INDYCAR elected to disregard points for qualifying after the regulations were changed literally at the 11th hour. Include the 500 qualification points, and suddenly, you have a very different picture; Dixon wins 520 to 491.
All this playing about with points and what-ifs is, of course, merely speculation and Monday morning quarterbacking, but it does illustrate a point. A driver who earned no pole positions during active qualifying, only won two races, and took out his own teammate during the season finale has no business saying that a driver who won three pole positions and won three races, including the season finale, and led the most laps in four races had a “shit season.” We can discuss the pros and cons of double-points races and other championship-spicing gimmicks, if you wish, but Dixon earned his championship under the rules that were in place at the beginning of the season, and looked classy doing it.
The race was average at St Petersburg in my opinion. I didn’t really expect the race to go off without an issue, or the greatest Indycar race ever this weekend. After all, it was effectively a new formula after an exceptionally long off season.
The first race with the new Aero kits was as expected, quite caution heavy, with five full course cautions throughout the race, and if I’m honest, Indycar probably could of called one or two more for debris at times.
From the unveiling of the kits, the expectation was always present that due to the close racing style of Indycar and fragile looking winglets and flicks, that St pete would see alot of cautions, being a street circuit as the opening round. I think the amount of debris was somewhat more excessive than people perhaps imagined however.
Overall however, besides the debris caution, and a few odd on track incidents, including one between Simona De Silvestro and James Jakes, the race wasn’t that bad. The new aero packages continue to create strong racing, which is something that I had previously been concerned about. That may change as we go through the season but the new aero kit era is off to a good start from that perspective.
Admittedly Penske domination showed this weekend, with the team locking out positions 1-4 in qualifying, and then in the race coming home with a 1-2 finish, followed by Tony Kanaan for Ganassi in third. Chevrolet clearly also had the advantage this weekend over Honda, with the highest placed Honda, Ryan Hunter-Reay coming home in seventh.
My driver of the race, has to go to Montoya. Not only because he won, but also the turnaround in performance from when Montoya returned at St pete in 2014, compared to this weekend’s result. Maybe I had too high expectations on Montoya a year ago, but this was the St Petersburg race, I hoped from the CART champion and F1, NASCAR veteran twelve months ago.
The turning point really came at Pocono in July last year for Montoya, when his first Indycar win of this era came. Things really started to click together for Montoya after that and it all paid off yet again this weekend, after a strong battle with teammate Will Power.
Ultimately the race came down to one move, which Power misjudged and it ultimately cost him victory over Montoya, having to nurse the car abit after some contact with his Penske teammate, allowing for Montoya to escape to victory.
A tough weekend overall for the Andretti Autosport team saw the team collect a number of replacement front wings on pitroad and appeared abit off the pace compared to the Chevrolet powered rivals all weekend.
Meanwhile the highest placed rookie went to Gabby Chaves racing for BHA, who finished in 17th position, despite a drive-through penalty during the race.
All said and done, this wasn’t a great Indycar race. However overall I am happy with the progression made by the series. It followed through on it’s introduction of aero kits, Lap records have now been broken, that had stood from the champcar era, and Indycar media coverage had improved with practice and qualifying sessions shown online. whilst an impressive crowd at the venue, showed abit more strength for the series.
What thoughts do you have on yesterday’s opening Indycar race of 2015? Did it live up to expectations? Did you expect something more?
It’s clearly summer break in Formula 1 when Indycar driver Juan Pablo Montoya (JPM) starts lecturing Formula 1 on how to fix its issues. According to JPM, F1 needs to be more like American Indycar in order to cure its ills. AUTOSPORT has the call:
“[But to get fans engaged,] they ought to look at IndyCar. I think IndyCar does the best job of looking after its fans.
“It’s very different [for fans], just walking around seeing the cars. In the garage in NASCAR, the drivers are never there.
“The cars are there but the drivers are always in the motorhome. F1, [the paddock] is always closed. It’s so complicated. There is no right answer.
“But the people that best understand it … NASCAR is the best at understanding that at the end of the day it’s a show.
“Formula 1, being very European, they think it’s a sport. And it is a sport. But the way it’s played … the fans have to like it.”
I’m not sure I could disagree more, JPM. I would argue that F1’s attempt at becoming a “show” is the very thing that’s hurting it. It is a sport and should be treated as such. I would go as far as to suggest that growth for growth’s sake in F1 is not really something they should be looking at when the series generates over $1.1 billion in revenue with a massive take-away by the commercial rights holder for its investors.
F1 is also about TV revenue. With twenty races ran in far-flung corners of the earth, it’s biggest revenue and series impact isn’t really fan access to paddock areas, garages and more. Not that any of this is bad, mind you, but that isn’t the reason F1 is losing viewers. At best you could argue its contributory to some of the reason for waning viewers but not the biggest confluence of issues.
One thing JPM did say is that F1 needs to fix the sound of the cars and I do believe this is a bigger issue for many but not all. The new format just isn’t resonating and as we mentioned on our rantcast, whether this can contributed to a lack of thorough explanation on F1’s part or not is up to you to determine.
My hunch is that the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) program may be one of the few that truly set out to be a show and succeeded in it’s goal with large viewership—although that’s now waning as well. Other sports that have tried to leave the sporting aspect in the penumbra of “the show” have seen a decline. NASCAR amongst them.
To Indycar’s credit, they’ve avoided the artifices and show-spicing concepts that have damaged other sports—although they have their own issues that are hurting their sport. They do give fans more access to the series whether that be paddock access or online content.
JPM isn’t wrong in that there are things to be learned from Indycar but he isn’t right either. F1 is a different beast with dramatically bigger stakes and F1 should look across all motor sport to see what is and isn’t working. They should start, not with Indycar, but the WEC for clues.