Juan Pablo Montoya has fended off McLaren boss Ron Dennis’ assertion that switching to NASCAR for 2007 was an ‘impulsive’ move.
The reportedly unilateral announcement, cleared neither by the Colombian racer’s manager or the silver squad, cost Montoya his drive.
But 30-year-old Montoya, winner of seven grands prix since 2001, stands by his decision.
”It was tough but I knew what I was doing,” he was quoted as saying by ‘AS’ newspaper in Spain.
”Realistically, I only had three or four years left in formula one, so when I saw the opportunity to extend my career by ten or fifteen years with a new challenge, it was difficult to turn down.”
Some observers assume that Montoya, who already spent most of his free time in Miami, took a whiff of the American scene and decided that it also better suited his personal life — such as the impending arrival of son number two.
He admitted: ”Yes, I like being in the States, which is also close to Colombia.
”But if I had wanted to continue in F1 I could have, without problems.”
Montoya also denies that he was ‘fired’ by McLaren because his NASCAR announcement amounted to breach of contract.
”No, that is totally false,” he insisted. ”I could make the announcement whenever I wanted and I did not have to consult the team.
”If someone had put a Ferrari or Renault contract on the table then it would have been very difficult to say ‘no’.
”But none of the options that I had were convincing me to stay.”
Furthermore, Montoya rejected the inevitable appraisal that his five-and-a-half year career in formula one could be classed a ‘failure’.
”I am Colombian, I made it to formula one and I won races,” he said. ”I fought for the championship in 2003.
”I don’t think you can say that is a failure.”