Ex-Formula 1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya says that Dr Helmut Marko is still angry with him to this day over an experience they had over two decades ago.
Prior to his stint in F1, Montoya raced for Marko’s RSM Marko team in the 1997 International Formula 3000 season.
Montoya ended the championship second in the standings, narrowly missing out on the title to Ricardo Zonta, who later would have a brief spell in F1.
Speaking to motorsport.com, Montoya says that Marko is still angry over how the final laps of the title-decider in Mugello played out.
“He is angry with me to this day. He thinks I deliberately let the championship slip away on the penultimate lap at Mugello,” Montoya said.
“We had just misadjusted the top gear. Every time I went to top gear, the engine started stuttering because the gear was made too long.
“But Marko still has the idea that I gave away the championship.”
Since then, Marko has established a key role in the Red Bull F1 squad, overseeing the driver development programme that has delivered a multitude of drivers to the series.
Reflecting back on his time working with Marko, Montoya remembered one particular incident working with the Austrian.
“I remember one time he invited me to his house for lunch,” Montoya said.
“I was served a salad, but I didn’t eat vegetables in those days. He then made me run back to his office. It was more than an hour of running.
“At the time, I was very miffed at him, but looking back on it, I realise it was his way of moving me forward.
“Living in Graz and everything, it was a good experience for me. I hardly had any money at the time, but Helmut took good care of me.”
Montoya’s son Sebastian is currently signed to the Red Bull junior programme and is scheduled to race in FIA Formula 3 with Hitech Grand Prix.
Montoya senior says that although Marko’s management was tough, he asserts it fashioned him into a stronger driver.
“At the time itself it was tough, but in the end he made me a better driver,” he said.
“He was always shouting that I had a lot of problems and that I was crazy and everything. But he did it with the right intentions. He was pushing me all the time to become a better person.
“Most teams give their drivers star treatment and totally pamper you. But Helmut wants to make a man out of you and believes that if you want to achieve something, you have to fight for it.”
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