Even though the perception is that Alesi was ultra-fast but wild and Berger was a solid, consistent pro, didn’t Berger outqualify Alesi in ‘95? Those two suffered in the latter stages of their career by always being together, I think.
I don't necessarily disagree with you, but you could argue that between 98 and 03 there weren't any truly top-notch drivers beside Mika and Schumacher (and even then Mika was only up there between 98 and 00), once JPM and Kimi got some experience under their belts the tables started to turn.
That’s what I’m saying, though. Montoya was the one of that lot - and Kubica too even though he was kinda the next era - who stood out even though on pure results he wasn’t head and shoulders above. The rest of them, I honestly think were much of a muchness and yeah, the ones who stood out in that era - Schumacher, Hakkinen, Villeneuve, were all World Champions. Next in line for me is JPM.
I think Ralf Schumacher, Barrichello and DC all made more of their ability than Montoya did, but their seasons in winning cars only added up to a handful of wins each, and not a serious title tilt between them. I don’t count Coulthard in 2001. He was second, but miles behind Schumacher.