Juan Pablo Montoya’s absence from the Magny Cours paddock has caused more of a stir than if the Colombian had simply turned up for normal duty.
Each on a different side of the fence, Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve – and many other F1 rivals – commented at the French circuit on the departed McLaren driver’s shock switch to American NASCAR racing.
”I don’t see the challenge (of NASCAR), for me,” said Schumacher, promptly demanding the ‘next question’ from reporters when asked if he would miss the 30-year-old.
”I can’t really say he was ever my friend.”
Villeneuve, who disagrees with Schumacher that oval racing is not exciting, called Montoya’s move ‘ballsy’.
”I was surprised,” said the Canadian, ”because it happened early enough in the year that there was still time (for Montoya) to talk with teams in F1.”
Generally, however, the European racers’ mindset is that choosing tin-tops over the premier open-wheeler category is ‘strange’.
”Since I was a kid I followed all the steps up to formula one so all I can say is that I am happy where I am,” said Pedro de la Rosa, who replaces Montoya at McLaren.
Vitantonio Liuzzi added: ”It is a step back; a funny decision but a cool decision.”
”Personally it’s not my kind of thing, driving around in circles without corners,” said Nico Rosberg.