Sunday June 10th, 2001
By Alan Baldwin
Jaguar's Eddie Irvine sided with Canadian Jacques Villeneuve on Saturday and accused Colombian Formula One newcomer Juan Pablo Montoya of getting in the way on the racetrack.
Villeneuve and Montoya clashed on Friday at the Canadian Grand Prix after mutual accusations about their driving ended in a physical scuffle at a drivers' meeting. Montoya's Williams had hit the back of Villeneuve's BAR in practice after the 1997 Formula One champion overtook the Colombian who he said had been blocking him.
Montoya said Villeneuve 'brake tested' him by braking suddenly on the exit to the chicane when a car normally accelerates away. Whatever really happened, Irvine offered his own opinions after a qualifying session that saw Villeneuve and Montoya end up together on the fifth row of the grid.
"I think it's very valid," said Irvine, who has been accused plenty of times in more than eight years in Formula One of getting in the way himself, of Villeneuve's assertion that Montoya blocked others.
"Montoya is obstructive on the track and he gets in your way, he crashes into people...and everyone raves about him. He persistently qualifies massively behind Ralf (Schumacher) and races a lot slower so I think the press have pumped him up and he's got to keep up his image," added Irvine.
"He is lacking in certain areas. Indycars I think is a bit more about bullying the car around, Formula One is about skill and finesse and he hasn't quite mastered that one yet."
Montoya, like Villeneuve in 1996, came into Formula One this year as a CART champion and winner of the Indianapolis 500. He led the Brazilian Grand Prix for half the distance before Dutchman Jos Verstappen hit the back of his car while he was being lapped and ended his race.
Montoya finished second in the Spanish Grand Prix, the only one of seven races he has finished so far. "Jacques was also a bit wild whenever he came from Indycars so there's two ways of looking at it," added Irvine.
Irvine, who qualified a disappointing 15th, said jokingly that he was looking forward to Montoya and Villeneuve taking out most of those in front of him at the start. The Northern Irishman also ventured an opinion on the lingering controversy from the last Monaco Grand Prix about Brazilian Enrique Bernoldi's actions in holding up McLaren's title contender David Coulthard for much of the race.
Arrows driver Bernoldi was criticised heavily by McLaren boss Ron Dennis after the race for what he saw as unsporting behaviour, although others have defended him.
"I think the guy did a good job," said Irvine. "If he had let DC (Coulthard) through and DC finished sixth and he was seventh, if I were (Arrows boss) Tom Walkinshaw I'd have sacked him."
He reminded reporters of how Damon Hill had held up Michael Schumacher at Suzuka in Japan three years ago and many people had suggested it was due to spite on the Briton's part.
"And I'm thinking why should he let him through? He's getting paid $7 million or whatever it was for his team to get points, and points make prizes. If you end up behind someone you're there because you made a mistake and in this world I think you should pay for your mistakes. Because that's what competition is."