Thursday February 22nd, 2001
The top men at Williams, Frank Williams and Patrick Head, believe Ralf Schumacher will have the edge over rookie Juan Pablo Montoya during the 2001 season, according to interviews in the British Autosport magazine.
Montoya has been highly rated by many observers after winning the Formula 3000 championship in 1998 and the CART title a year later, but Head believes Schumacher will bring home better results in 2001.
"I would be surprised if Ralf's experience and race craft do not put him ahead of Juan Pablo over a season," said Head. "Ralf is an enormously fast driver and he can find the limit just as quickly as his brother.
"Juan Pablo has integrated into the team very quickly and he has worked hard to do it. He knows that being a driver is so much more than just turning up and driving. But anybody coming into F1 will find it very hard to compete. I would be surprised this season if Ralf did not end up ahead of Juan Pablo."
Williams agrees with Head's prediction for 2001, expecting Montoya will need some time before he finds himself completely at home in a Formula One car, having race in the CART series for the last two seasons.
"In my opinion a Grand Prix car is very, very complex and drivers have to have a data bank in their mind," said Williams. "Juan Pablo does not have that F1 data bank. He knows about 800-900 hp as well as anybody in the world. But there are an awful lot of buttons in the cockpit and there's the telemetry and the memory of what we did last year."
Montoya also believes he still a few things to learn, but is not letting this worry him, and can't wait for the season to begin. "I still have some work to do before my first Formula One race start," said Montoya, "but I'm not worried about the first race at all. I'm actually really looking forward to Australia."
The team believe that this year will see them in a position which they can use to push higher in 2002, as they feel that McLaren and Ferrari will be too good again this season.
"We have made progress, but there is a way to go until we are in a position to challenge the two top teams," said Head. "We still want to be in a position where we can challenge for the championship next year."