Montoya was born in Bogota where his father worked on cars and mechanics. Montoya began racing when he was very young, participating in kart races and winning many of them, before moving up the international championships.
In 2000, he won the Indianapolis 500, becoming the first driver to win the event on his first attempt since Graham Hill in 1966. The following year, he joined the Williams Formula 1 team (where he had previously been a test driver), winning the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in his first season. In 2003 he added the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix to his victory list, as well as the European Grand Prix in Germany. He was a championship contender in one of the closest championships for years, but lost out on the world title to Michael Schumacher