Juan Pablo Montoya says the media, fans and her employers must give Danica Patrick time to fully acclimatize to NASCAR before judging whether her stock car experiment is a success or failure.
Patrick is evaluating a future in stock cars by contesting a limited schedule of ARCA RE/Max Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series events around her IndyCar campaign, starting with Saturday's ARCA race at Daytona. Montoya pointed out that his transition from Formula 1 to NASCAR in 2006 had not been easy, but he improved and became a Chase contender last year. He expects a similar trajectory for Patrick.
"I think she will be fine," he said. "To start with, she is going to struggle, but if they are patient enough with her, I think she will be fine.
"It is going to be hard until it clicks. Once it clicks and you understand what you have to do to go fast, then you go, 'Ahhh...' I was lucky enough to have a boss in Chip [Ganassi] who was patient enough and understood enough what I was going through. And they supported me and I think that was one of the key factors.
"The same thing with Danica – after two or three races, if she runs bad and they go to her and tell her that she has to run better or we are done, then she is going to be screwed – but if they go there and they say, 'Don't worry about it, let's keep on working on this,' then she'll be fine."
Montoya believes the press would rather see Patrick struggle than succeed.
"Probably in her shoes and like mine where I came from, I think more people want you to fail than to do good," he said. "Not because they are bad people, but you will be better news if you fail than if you did well. That is always hard. But, at the same time, there are always people who want you to do well. And it is a struggle because you are not going to do well to start with."
He said the difference in driving style between single seaters and stock cars should never be underestimated.
"The feeling is so different. The feedback you get from the car is so different from what I was used to, that was really really hard," Montoya recalled. "Because in an open-wheel car, at least when I drove Indy cars, that thing starts stepping out and you are going to hit the fence. Here, the thing starts stepping out and you still aren't loose enough."
The Colombian reckons this will be a particularly tough challenge for Patrick given that she is racing in both NASCAR and IndyCar this year.
"Especially for her, to go back and forth, I think it is going to be harder not being committed to one thing 100 percent," he said.
Still, Montoya added that moving from F1 to NASCAR had been extremely rewarding for him.
"Personally and professionally, I am really, really happy," he said. "It's been a lot of fun. It has been exciting because it has been such a challenge. Personally it has been an incredible challenge."