Montoya was one of the most exciting drivers to be employed by McLaren in recent years, but he never really realised his full potential after a promising start to his career. Winner of the 1998 Formula 3000 championship he moved to the USA in 1999 where he won the CART Championship and was one of only two drivers – the other being Nigel Mansell – to win the CART title in his freshman year.
After also winning the Indy 500, Montoya made his F1 debut for Williams at the start of 2001, scoring his first victory in that year’s Italian GP. He would have to wait until 2003 before scaling the top spot on the podium again, winning that year’s Monaco and German races, and then rounded off his Williams career with victory in the 2004 Brazilian race before switching to McLaren for 2005 alongside Kimi Raikkonen.
Montoya quickly demonstrated to McLaren that he had what it took to compete at the highest level and, alongside Kimi, made a formidable pairing for the 2005 seasons. His wins in the British, Italian and Brazilian GPs were copybook performances, but somehow he seemed to struggle at the start of 2006 and could not quite seem to be able to produce the form he had demonstrated the previous year. He also preferred living and racing in the USA so when the opportunity for him to switch to NASCAR presented itself McLaren and Montoya went their separate ways after that year’s US GP at Indianapolis.