Tuesday November 20th, 2001
Ralf Schumacher says he is not as close to Formula One team boss Frank Williams as Colombian newcomer Juan Pablo Montoya.
But the German, winner of three races for Williams last year, believes the spirit within the BMW-powered team remains unchanged.
"I don't know exactly why, but Frank and Montoya are closer," Michael Schumacher's younger brother told Germany's Motorsport Aktuell newspaper on Tuesday. "Frank loves Juan. But that hasn't detracted from the atmosphere on the team. Montoya was new to us last season. Perhaps that's why he is enjoying more attention."
Montoya, a former Williams test driver and CART champion, has acquired a reputation in Formula One for audacious overtaking after an impressive debut season that saw him take a first win at Monza in September. The two drivers made uneasy colleagues last season, with rookie Montoya delighting in outqualifying the more experienced German in four of the last six races.
"The rivalry between Juan and me has not yet resulted in a collision," added Ralf, who has a contract with Williams to 2004. "We have the same goal in front of us. We want to bring the team forward. The defeats at the start of the season had a positive effect on Juan. He realised that life in Formula One isn't as easy as he thought it would be."
BMW motorsport boss Gerhard Berger told the same newspaper that the team would allow both drivers to race each other on equal terms until one emerged as a clear leader.
"Our goal is to allow the duel to carry on until it's no longer tolerable for the team or causes disadvantages," Berger said. "We don't have a 'Number One' or 'Number Two'. We have two drivers who are similarly strong and they will get the same material."
Schumacher, who finished on 49 points in the drivers' standings, helped Williams to third place overall. Montoya won one race, had three pole positions and 31 points. Schumacher, whose older sibling is Ferrari's clear favourite, agreed that there was no reason to give one driver precedence over the other.
"It's the right way to go on some teams, defining a 'Number One', such as Michael on the Ferrari team. But there is not yet any need for such an order on our team."
Published at 16:37:10 GMT