At Indianapolis, Juan Montoya and the BMW Williams team suffered the ignominy of being excluded from a second grand prix in succession but, once again, although the infringement was in place right from the start, the axe only fell once the Colombian had all but completed a race distance.

The problem this time was the time it took Montoya to vacate his stranded FW26 on the grid and head pitward to jump into the spare car. The rules state that all personnel have to leave the grid with at least 15 seconds remaining before the start of the formation lap and, by electing to climb out of his car, JPM became caught up in the regulation. However, having to disconnect all the apparatus that accompanies a modern-day F1 cockpit, he exceeded the time limit by a mere three seconds.

It then took the stewards a mere 57 laps to decide that he and the team were in breach of the rules...

The delay angered both team and driver, not least because, after 56 laps, Montoya had worked his way from a pit-lane start to be lying in third position - and closing - behind the two Ferraris with one pit-stop to go. In a race where his team-mate had already suffered a violent crash and been taken to hospital, the risks involved in completing 57 ultimately meaningless laps would not have been lost on Montoya, while the team would have been relieved that the Colombian had been able to drive a perfectly healthy car back to the pits, rather than one that had been damaged in some way.

"I had a problem at the start, which forced me to run to the spare car," Montoya said, acknowledging that, at least, that T-car had been set up for him rather than his team-mate, "I started from the pit-lane and had a tough race having to climb up through the field, but I managed to run as high as second at one point, although, realistically, we were on for a strong top four position.

"Then I got the black flag, which was another bad outcome to what seemed to be a reasonably good weekend. The only comfort is that the car was quick today, which allowed me to catch up with the frontrunners from the back of the field."

Newly appointed technical director Sam Michael has endured a rocky start to his tenure of Patrick Head's former position, and confirmed that Montoya was only a matter of seconds from avoiding his second straight disqualification.

"The reason for Juan Pablo's black flag is that, when we tried to start the engine on the grid, the starter would not engage into the back of the car and we decided that he should get into the T-car," Michael explained, "However, according to the FIA's article 85, Juan Pablo would need to have left the grid within 15 seconds before the start of the formation lap - and we were a few seconds too late."

The stewards claimed that Schumacher's accident, and the ensuing clear-up operation had caused them to postpone their investigation into the antics of the second Williams driver, leading to the delay in his exclusion notice.

For BMW's Mario Theissen, the disqualification was another setback in a season where the relationship with Williams hasn't exactly run to plan.

"I haven't talked to the FIA people, but they will probably say that they were very busy with the incidents that happened on the track," Theissen said, "However, we would have preferred to know immediately what was going on. [The problem] happened on the installation lap, so there was plenty of time before the start and during the early part of the race to tell us that they were looking into it. The issue itself was black-and-white...."

 

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