Saturday June 9th, 2001
By Timothy Collings
Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya was reprimanded and given a stern warning about his future conduct on Saturday after a tussle with Canadian Jacques Villeneuve.
According to sources close to the Williams-BMW team, Montoya's team chief Frank Williams expressed his displeasure at the Colombian's part in the fracas during the drivers' briefing for the Canadian Grand Prix on Friday. Following a war of words earlier in the day, BAR driver Villeneuve was so irritated by a Montoya comment that he tried to grab him by the throat.
"Frank (Williams) felt the comment was out of order and has given Juan a stern talking to," a Williams insider was quoted as saying by The Sun. "He has made it perfectly clear he will not tolerate a repeat performance."
As the pair tussled, watched by drivers and officials, they were pulled apart by the FIA's race director Charlie Whiting. Villeneuve is said to have lost his temper after Montoya made a remark to him about the fatal accident at the Australian Grand Prix, where a marshal died after being hit by a bouncing tyre which flew loose when the Canadian crashed into Ralf Schumacher.
Officials and spokesmen for both teams declined to comment on the scrap which followed their comments about each other during separate news briefings on Friday. But Frank Williams and BAR chief Craig Pollock spoke to Montoya after the incident and made their feelings clear.
The warring pair had exchanged all sorts of insults before the drivers' briefing and continued when they began to speak later in the meeting. At an official news conference on Friday, when Villeneuve was asked to talk about his 260 km/h accident in free practice, he suggested that an earlier collision with Montoya may have been a contributory cause to his own misfortune.
"Juan Pablo ran into the back of me a couple of laps before the crash," Villeneuve said. "I really don't know if it did anything to the car and I don't know what kind of game he is trying to play...It looks like something failed on my car, but it's very difficult to know because when I hit the wall so many things broke. He (Montoya) is on a mission for something and I'll have to have a word with him."
That opportunity came at the drivers' briefing before which Montoya had been adamant that it was Villeneuve's fault, and accused the 1997 world champion of 'brake-testing' him. "I looked in the mirror and he was there," he said. "I moved off line, then I got to the next chicane and when I was behind him in the exit to the chicane, he stamped on the brakes.
"I don't know what he was thinking when he brake-tested me. But, in a way, you know, he paid for it!"
To add zest to Villeneuve's and Montoya's disagreement, the pair finished qualifying on Saturday in ninth and 10th places respectively. This means they will start alongside each other on the fifth row of the grid for the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday.