Montoya endures “very difficult” IndyCar return on tough weekend for McLaren SP

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Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya endured a tough return to IndyCar last weekend, starting last and finishing 21st in Saturday’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

“This weekend was a difficult weekend,” Montoya admitted following his first IndyCar start for four years.

Montoya blamed a lack of practice running on the red-sidewall alternate compound tyres during practice and qualifying for his struggles in the early part of the race. “We did all the practice and everything on the wrong tyres.”

“Today was a day where you race on reds,” he said. “My first lap on reds was supposed to be before qualifying.

“I spun on them, I flat-spotted them. So I did four laps of qualifying on those tyres, and then the next time I drove on them was during the race. So it made it very long, and very difficult.”

Montoya, driving the red and black number 86 McLaren SP entry, qualified 25th and last on Friday after being penalised for holding up Alex Palou. He made little progress from the start of Saturday’s race, which he finished a lap down outside the top 20.

He believes some progress was made, however. “At the end of the weekend, we felt that my car was getting competitive and the pace was pretty good.

“At the start of the race, we were so far off. But as the day went on, I think we made really good changes. We worked really well with the engineering and the strategy, together – we really kept on top of everything that was going on, and that made everything much, much easier.”

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The 45-year-old returned to McLaren 15 years after walking out of their Formula 1 team at the same venue. But the squad which won in Texas two weeks ago had a lacklustre weekend by their recent standards.

Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren SP, Indianapolis, IndyCar, 2021
After a tough start, Montoya’s pace improved
Texas winner Patricio O’Ward could only manage a 15th place finish, two places ahead of team mate Felix Rosenqvist. The latter is yet to finish inside the top 10 since joining the team this year.

“It was a tough day,” McLaren SP team president Taylor Kiel reflected. “It was tough for everybody. Certainly our team really struggled from the beginning of the weekend to find the pace. It’s very disappointing to have a weekend like that, obviously.

“The good thing is we’re back on track in a couple of days getting ready for the biggest race on our schedule. Not the performance we wanted and certainly not the way to back up a victory, but we have a chance here in the next week to make it right,” added Kiel.

Montoya has returned to IndyCar in a bid to win the Indianapolis 500 for a third time. He won the race as a rookie in 2000 with Ganassi, then again in 2015 with Penske.

Those two wins bookended a successful six-year run in Formula 1, followed by a seven-year tenure in the NASCAR Cup Series. He’ll look to join an exclusive fraternity of three-time Indy 500 winners this year by becoming only the third international driver to accomplish this feat, and the 11th in total.

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RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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  • 9 comments on “Montoya endures “very difficult” IndyCar return on tough weekend for McLaren SP”

    1. Hm, looks like the McLaren MP team had a hard time overall – maybe lack of a real Indy specialist? Hard to tell.

      I guess this does show that the grand old names don’t always deliver as fans hope.

      1. @bascb The McLaren indycar team is the old Schmidt/Peterson team which while never really one of the best teams in terms of fighting for championships, Was always a team that was capable of running around the front & scoring the odd win. Always seemed to produce a car capable of running for the pole at the 500 only to usually fall back during the race.

        It’s a team i’m always surprised didn’t win more races than they did as they always seemed to be running near the front only to end up finishing further back than it seemed they would earlier in the race.

        1. Ha, thanks for filling in a bit of background on the team @stefmeister! Although I really meant Montoya with the big name :-)

          I do hope that with McLaren together this team finally gets to see some of the success they have been working towards for long enough.

    2. rEtIrEd F1 DrIvErS dOmInAtE iNdYcAr

      1. What about the rejects?

      2. Right, the highest former F1 driver is the standings is Marcus Ericsson in 11th place. Domination.

    3. Anthony Jenkins
      17th May 2021, 13:08

      Montoya was dropped by Penske for a reason. That reason, now several season past is now evident. He’s no longer fast enough.

      1. Montoya said he was surprised with the way car handled, he did not think it was setup right. They worked on it. Not sure if the changes he was proposing helped or caused this bad weekend.

        I wouldn’t worry about this race result about Indy 500 chances. While both races are held at Indy, this race is on a oad circuit and no where representative of Indy 500. We can also remember how good Pato ran at previous oval they ran (win and P4).

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