Juan-Pablo Montoya has spoken about his difficult relationship with McLaren team principal Ron Dennis, whilst admitting that he is glad to have seen the back of Formula 1 – a sport populated, he claims, by robots.
The famously outspoken Colombian – now plying his trade in NASCAR with former Champ Car winning outfit Chip Ganassi Racing, with moderate success – began 94 grands prix in the top flight for Williams and McLaren from 2001 to 2006, before leaving abruptly to return across the Pond midway through his final season.
Though he triumphed on seven occasions, ascended the rostrum no fewer than 30 times and set 13 pole positions and twelve fastest laps in F1, Montoya is insistent that he does not miss life in the category deemed to be the pinnacle of international four-wheeled motorsport.
“In Formula 1 they want you to be a robot,” he told German publication Sport Bild
. “If you have a strong personality, you will have problems. I don't regret anything about changing to NASCAR.”
Whilst recalling with a degree of warmth his four-year period spent at Williams from 2001 to 2004, the 32-year-old had some harsh words for subsequent employer McLaren-Mercedes and his team-mate at Woking, Kimi Raikkonen, and suggested that the current grand prix crop are far too quick to make up excuses.
“They complain about everything,” he stated. “Like in Monaco, they complained about reflections in the rear-view mirrors when they go through the tunnel. Me, I think 'just get on with it and drive!'
“Many people in F1 forget that it is a sport. McLaren, for example, take it much too seriously. With Ron [Dennis], you have a nice dinner with him one evening and then when you say 'hi' the next day, he is a totally different person.
“With Kimi it is not about whether you get along with him or not, because he never says anything – and it's difficult to know someone who doesn't talk, right?
“With BMW-Williams I had the most fun, with Patrick Head mostly. Patrick always said what he thinks – as I do. He always tried with every conversation to be polite, but by the end he could never keep it up; that was funny!”
The Bogotá native – who has notched up eight top-ten finishes from 56 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts – also added that he understood the reasons that had compelled former double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso to cut short his three-year contract with McLaren at the end of last season.
“He saw that the future of the team was Lewis Hamilton,” Montoya underlined, “not Fernando Alonso.”