The date was 11th May 2001 and it was practice for the Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix at the A1 Ring (now the Red Bull Ring).
Juan Pablo Montoya was three months into his debut Formula 1 season with the Williams Team, and clearly hadn’t received the memo that F1 is a business to be taken seriously and there’s very little time for horseplay. Or indeed deerplay.
While he was touring round the 2.68 mile Spielberg circuit in his Williams FW23, Montoya’s Williams team spotted that a deer had breached the perimeter fence and was skipping across the circuit, and his engineer took to the team radio to inform the Columbian that there was an on-track hazard.
Cue the classic exchange:
Engineer: “We’ve seen a deer on the circuit. We believe it’s somewhere on the circuit, so just come in cautiously.”
Montoya: “OH DEER”.
Engineer [missing the joke completely]: “It’s like a horse with horns” (!)
Montoya: “I know, I know. Oh deer. Hahahahahaha.”
[Cut to footage of the deer bounding back over the Armco barrier to safety.]
Montoya was known for his laid back, and yet at times fiery manner both inside and outside of the car, which both helped him to seven Formula 1 wins (four for Williams) but also stood in the way of him achieving more.
Undeterred (or should I say unDEERterred?? No? Okay.), Montoya qualified for the 2001 Austrian Grand Prix in second place behind Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher (a position in which he became far too familiar) and while he led the race for the opening few laps, he went off the track defending his lead from Schumacher and would eventually retire from fourth place with hydraulics failure.
At the race climax, with McLaren’s David Coulthard (ex-of Williams) crossing the line to win Ferrari implemented team orders & instructed #2 driver Barrichello, in second place as he and third place Schumacher rounded the last corner of the last lap to move over and allow Schumacher to pick up the six points for second, minimising the damage Coulthard could do to his championship lead.
No deer were harmed in the telling of this anecdote.