Coulthard has to study life in slower lane

Motor Racing
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The Independent Online
Motor Racing

DERICK ALLSOP

reports from Nurburgring

David Coulthard, steadfastly declining to mention the name McLaren-Mercedes in discussions about his future, has to wait his turn in the sequence of driver announcements, while Eddie Irvine begins acclimatising to the prospect of life at Ferrari and Martin Brundle prepares for a move to Jordan-Peugeot.

However, there is one significant consequence of Coulthard's departure from Williams-Renault to McLaren - it will become official five hours before Sunday's Grand Prix of Europe here - that the young Scot cannot ignore. He is to be denied a genuine challenge for next season's world championship.

Aides of Coulthard claim he could have stayed at Williams, but that McLaren came in with a better offer and effectively shackled him with an option that also ruled out Ferrari. Sources close to Williams maintain they were disappointed in Coulthard's early season form and chose to pair Hill with Jacques Villeneuve.

The upshot is that Coulthard, buoyed by a sense of vindication after his maiden victory in Portugal last week, acknowledges he is stepping from a race-winning and potentially title-challenging car to one "in transition".

"In the short term, from a starting position, you'd have to say I would probably be better staying here. Just on performances, on results earlier in the year, you'd say I was not driving the car as quickly as Damon, but I believe if you take a long term view and look at the broader picture, it is a very different one. Over the last three races I have been the quickest guy on the circuit," Coulthard said.

It comes as no surprise to Hill, trailing Michael Schumacher, of Benetton- Renault, by 17 points in the championship that Coulthard is offering no assistance.

Coulthard said: "Under no circumstances would I move over from a personal point of view and I would expect that of no other driver, although if Damon was right behind me and the team requested it, I would take it in mind. I am only 15 points behind Damon and I want to finish the season at least second. It's still possible I could win the championship."

Hill, who suggested he needed a miracle to win the title after finishing third in Portugal last week, was in more defiant mood as he arrived in Schumacher's home country yesterday. "I believe in miracles and I'm not about to give up. There are four races left and I want to win all of them. I've got nothing to lose and we have a better chance now of one-two placings ahead of Michael. I'm confident I can beat David as well as Michael."

Ferrari's team director, Jean Todt, confirmed Irvine would be No 2 to Schumacher, but added: "It is not Michael Schumacher who is employing Ferrari. We needed a talented driver to go with him and each will have the best possible equipment." Irvine said: "For me the challenge of being in Formula One is to be measured against the best and now I will be. It will be tough to become champion but I'll give it a shot."

He is replaced at Jordan-Peugeot by Martin Brundle, currently with Ligier- Mugen. Brundle gave Jordan their first win as a Formula Three team12 years ago.

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