Ferrari Not Chasing Montoya

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When a rumor starts swirling in the Formula One world, it sometimes takes a blunt denial to stop all the talking.

And that is exactly what Ferrari Sporting Director Jean Todt did on Wednesday, in response to the rumors that Juan Pablo Montoya had been contacted to make the switch to Ferrari next season, if not sooner.

Four time World Champion Michael Schumacher is under contract with Ferrari until 2004, but Rubens Barrichello’s contract is up at the end of the 2002 season. Montoya is currently under contract with Williams.

“We think Montoya is a good driver,” Todt said. “His first year in Formula One, at the wheel of a competitive Williams car was a positive one. However, Ferrari has never had any contact with him, either directly or indirectly. We do not wish to give any credence to those who might have an interest in promoting these rumors.”

The recent rumors and speculation cast a shadow over testing in Barcelona late last week and Valencia this week, but the show carried on and the teams were back at work Wednesday. Kimi Raikkonen led testing Wednesday, putting a McLaren car on top again, this time with David Coulthard running second. Raikkonen completed an astonishing 108 laps getting used to his new Mercedes car, while Coulthard put in just 25 laps, reaching his best time of the day on Lap 9.

Giancarlo Fisichella ran 90 laps Wednesday, running third fastest, followed by Williams test driver Antonio Pizzonia and Renault driver Jenson Button, who continues to impressively run in the Top 5 on most days. Montoya was seventh fastest.

Renault Technical Director Mike Gascoyne was pleased with Wednesday’s testing results.

“We had another useful day’s testing, although Jarno's running was cut short when a suspension problem caused him to leave the track,” Gascoyne said. “Unfortunately, he also damaged the car, which we were unable to repair in time. Jenson continued tire development work for Michelin.

“Overall, the three days have been productive, especially in terms of tire testing. The next test will be in Barcelona, and we will run with the new car at some point during the week, which the whole team is extremely excited about.”

Button’s new Renault teammate Jarno Trulli was ninth fastest Wednesday.

The Minardi team continued its testing assault, running three drivers for a total of 82 laps Wednesday. Antonio Garcia, Alex Yoong, and Matteo Bobbi were the three slowest drivers on the day.

Wednesday was the first F-1 test for Garcia, the 2000Champion of the Open Telefonica by Nissan Series.

“I was really impressed,” he said. “I could never imagine to drive so fast, the installation lap was just enough to realize the potential of a Formula One car. In order to drive at my best I immediately had to adjust my sight to the high speed of the car and to the reduced view corner. I feel certainly amazed by the power of the car and its acceleration: braking is much brusquer and thanks to carbon brakes you can brake a bit late just a few meters before the corner.

“I think I did a good job for the race engineers and for the team. Between the runs we did slight changes, such as the gear ratios, but there wasn't enough time for major changes.”

Testing continues at Valencia on Thursday.

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