Young lions ready to challenge Ferrari

MONACO: Ferrari’s rivals have got their act together and Formula One’s young lions are showing their claws. 

That was Bernie Ecclestone’s assessment of Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya’s Monaco Grand Prix win on Sunday, a sparkling victory that allowed Williams to pop the champagne in the principality for the first time in 20 years. 

The Formula One ringmaster was delighted to see Williams and Montoya triumphant again, adding more spice to a season that has given four teams and five drivers wins in seven races. 

“The only thing that would have been better, would have been if Alonso had been third,” said Ecclestone, referring to Renault’s 21-year-old Spaniard Fernando Alonso, who was fifth. 

“We’d have had three young lions on the podium which would have been even better.” 

YOUNG GUNS: Juan Carlos Montoya (left) is congratulated by Kimi Raikkonen after the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix on Sunday. Montoya won the race ahead of Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher. - EPApic

McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen, the 23-year-old Finnish championship leader, was second ahead of Ferrari’s world champion Michael Schumacher. 

“The result was good. Montoya’s a popular guy, good for Formula One, good for everything. Nice,” said Ecclestone. “He’s not used to losing, Michael.” 

Raikkonen stretched his lead to four points over Schumacher while McLaren regained the upper hand in the constructors’ championship as Williams moved closer. 

Whatever the future holds, Schumacher will have to fight for a record sixth title. There will be no repeat of 2002 when he wrapped up his fifth in France in July. 

“It’s not like ’bye-bye’ is it,” said Ecclestone of the battle, while refusing to give credit to rule changes aimed at livening up the show. “It just means that the other teams have got going again. 

“When they’re on the track, one behind the other, it’s nothing to do with rules. It’s just that the other people have got their act together.” 

Frank Williams had nothing but praise for Montoya’s skill in holding off his rivals to win the glamour race. 

The Colombian has now won two of motor sport’s glittering prizes, Monaco and America’s Indianapolis 500, but Williams kept a lid on the emotion. 

“It’s 10 points and one more victory in the record books,” he said. “They don’t put the way you won it in the list eventually. 

“I was very impressed because he was under pressure all of the time, even when no-one was near him he had to maintain the speed that kept him on schedule for his pitstops. 

“We slowed him down for the last few laps because we wanted to be sure the car didn’t have any problems. I think he was able to deal with Raikkonen, I don’t think easily, but Kimi never quite got close enough to make a real challenge.” 

Monaco is an anachronism, a relic from motor racing’s golden era, where overtaking is almost impossible and a driver’s worst enemy is often himself. 

Success there, as McLaren found out last season when it gave them their sole win, may be an exception to the rule and Williams refrained from trumpeting his team’s revival after a difficult start to the year. 

“This is a very peculiar circuit car-wise,” he said. “But I think we will probably be competitive in Canada.” – Reuters  

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