Little did Libia Roldán and Pablo Montoya know that back on September 20th 1975, their newborn, Juan Pablo Montoya, would become the hero of a country. A little boy whose passion for racing brought him to Formula 1 in the early 2000s. The time zone difference was not an excuse for the Colombians to follow their most successful driver in the pinnacle of motorsport. His name filled headlines, he became the image of the most popular national brands, and his face would hang in teenagers’ rooms. He spent six years in F1, which made him famous worldwide, and he proved that there are still records to be broken outside of Formula One.
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As he passed his mid-forties, the Colombian keeps being a driver and embarks on a new adventure, the European Series Le Mans with the DragonSpeed USA team alongside his son, Sebastián Montoya. We sat with the Bogota-born driver to discuss this new chapter in his extensive career.
Welcome to Barcelona, Juan Pablo. Please tell us what it’s like to be racing alongside your son in the same team.
I don’t see Sebastian as my son here but more as my teammate; we treat him similarly. There are no privileges. Last year he did three races with us, and this year he’s doing the whole season. We race together, and it’s great fun.
What did you enjoy most about this competition?
Undoubtedly, being able to share the races with my son is fantastic. I also like the atmosphere we have at the team, and it’s very relaxing and easy-going.
How do you prepare for these long races?
I train a lot in the gym, but I am also used to it. I’ve been doing this my whole life. For my son, these races are super easy as he’s used to the F3 car, which is much more physical and faster, so this is easier for him.
Overall it’s good fun; however, it’s also a bit tricky because you need to share the car with the other three drivers, and we all need to be happy and agree on certain things for the team’s benefit.
As you mentioned, here you share the car with three other drivers, but also, with more than 40 cars on track, how do you manage all that traffic?
In those circumstances, you have to be smart but, at the same time, more aggressive. Otherwise, you may end up losing a lot of time in traffic. It’s the same if you crash into someone, so it’s about finding the perfect balance between being innovative and aggressive, and sometimes it’s hard to reach that point.
And regarding strategy, how does the team benefit from your expertise?
I think I add a lot of technical expertise to the team as I’ve got a lot of experience. I work a lot during the weekend, but we don’t talk much outside the race weekends. Last year in the US, I used to be involved a lot in the car’s setup. I’m not obsessed or picky about a particular aspect of the vehicle. The circuits and the tyres are different, and we must adapt. We, as a team, aim to find consistency because we do a lot of laps during these races, so we need to accept that sometimes we won’t feel comfortable in the car.
You’ve taken part in a great variety of motorsport competitions. Can you tell us something you like and dislike about them?
It’s pretty hard to tell. Every category has its things; depending on the context, you may see it as good or bad. Formula 1 is seen as the goal for every driver, and it should be like that, but look at me. I left F1 because I got bored there. Therefore, I do think it depends on the context. However, I like Formula 1 nowadays, though. Cars are much more different, the competition has changed a lot, and I think it’s much better for the show. On the other hand, I’m unsure if I would’ve enjoyed this era more than the one I experienced.
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Barcelona welcomed the Colombian driver with open arms, and hundreds of fans waited for a signed autograph and a picture with the Formula 1 legend. At the Catalonia Circuit, Montoya saw, once again, that his name was far from being forgotten.
After a discreet first race, the American team awaits Le Castellet, the second round of a category that keeps on challenging young and experienced drivers.