Two years ago Juan Pablo Montoya rampaged round Hockenheim like a Colombian bull, winning by a country mile for BMW-Williams. It was the sort of performance that we have rarely seen since until the British Grand Prix at Silverstone brought his long awaited maiden win for McLaren.
The 29-year-old admits that was something of a relief from the torment that has afflicted him for much of the season as he rode a riptide of bad luck from "tennis" injuries to team snafus to car failures. "We made progress during testing in Jerez," Montoya said yesterday, "and we were strong in the last race. It was nice to get a win for McLaren at Silverstone, it would be nice get one here for Mercedes."
Montoya's win was long overdue and it may prove to have been timely. The two engine failures that his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen suffered during practice for the French and British grands prix have hurt his title aspirations, and it may not be long before Montoya is asked to assist his partner's quest by subsuming his own aspirations.
Hockenheim has traditionally been a bogey circuit for Raikkonen. He has not finished in the German Grand Prix in the past four seasons, despite setting a new lap record for McLaren last year. At a time when he needs all the reliability that McLaren and Mercedes can muster, so that he can start races without the ridiculous artificial penalty of a 10 grid place deficit imposed because of mechanical failure beyond his personal control, the Finn can be forgiven for feeling hard done by.
Norbert Haug, Mercedes-Benz's motor sport director, has admitted that the faults lie with his company. "But they were different in France and Britain and we had never encountered them before. A bearing failed in Magny-Cours, then the shaft connecting the oil and water pumps failed in Silverstone. We are all revving our engines very high, so everything is very close to the limit, but our reliability was good in testing."
Raikkonen, doubtless hoping that this time the effort will be reciprocal, pledged: "I will give it my all to please the many Mercedes employees and fans."
Montoya also said he would not be attending the drivers' overdue meeting with Max Mosley, the president of the sport's governing body, the FIA, but his former team-mate Ralf Schumacher said there was no need for everyone to go. "It doesn't need all of us to meet Max," Schumacher said. "We've agreed what we want to talk about, the standards of safety during testing. We want the same as we have at the races."
l Jordan confirmed yesterday that the Danish driver Nicolas Kiesa will be their third driver in practice today, following Robert Doornbos' move to Minardi.