MOTOR RACING: Coulthard presents case for opposition

THEY SAT together, the four contenders for the Formula One world championship, and only one of them played down his prospects here, leaving the others to advance their causes.

Heinz-Harald Frentzen, whose victory in Italy 12 days ago left him within 10 points of the title leaders, believes his Jordan-Mugen will be less effective in the Grand Prix of Europe, to be contested on this slower, meandering circuit.

So that leaves three, and all are talking a good game. Mika Hakkinen, level at the top with Eddie Irvine, on 60 points, and David Coulthard, the outsider on 48, presented cases for enhancing their challenges.

Hakkinen remains the favourite, despite his costly and tearful exit at Monza. He has claimed 11 poles out of 13 and his McLaren-Mercedes is unquestionably the best and most versatile car in the field. Irvine, however, has somehow managed to maintain parity with a distinctly outperformed Ferrari and his new car ought to be better suited to the configuration here.

Coulthard must finish no lower than fourth if either Hakkinen or Coulthard wins this race, otherwise he is out of the equation. Team orders, which could be imposed, depending qualifying positions, would effectively scupper his course anyway. But the Scotsman goes into the race with the attitude he has nothing to lose and, in this bizarrely unpredictable season, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that circumstances could pave his way for a genuine tilt in the final two rounds of the championship, in Malaysia and Japan.

Hakkinen's most serious threat could come from within himself. He admitted he had struggled to overcome the setback of Italy and the psychological debris may still be cluttering his mind. The Finn said: "It was a disaster. It was very difficult to put it out of my mind. My emotions were high and I just lost it, I lost control.

"But you have to continue your life and look to the future. This is a new challenge and although I could be happier, I am all right. We are strong on every circuit and we've done extra testing. The car is very strong."

Irvine is content to nurture any doubts in Hakkinen's head, stressing the greater potential of the Ferrari on this circuit. The Ulsterman said: "It's now up to us to start performing. I think we'll do that here. We've had a five-day test and made good progress. This circuit suits us a lot better than the last two and even without the improvements we've made, I'm sure we'd be a lot better."

Coulthard can count on a competitive McLaren and hope he just happens to dial into one of his inspired days for this race.

"I'm not worried about my championship chances because I wasn't even in it early in the year," he said, "and it's only in the second half that I've come into it. I am in with a shout and if I win this race I will definitely have a chance. We can't say anything about team orders because as yet we have no plan to talk about."

Coulthard sensed the opportunity to pinch a few psychological points at Irvine's expense, saying: "I've got a better chance than Eddie, because I'm a better driver... I mean, I've got a better car."

Irvine, who can take it as well as dish it out, was unmoved. Whatever happens this season he has a three-year contract with Jaguar.

Frentzen is realistic about his prospects, saying: "We are not as good on the slower circuits like this."

He had a word of sympathy for Hakkinen: "There's nothing wrong with a driver showing emotion. Some people think it's a weakness but I think it shows you are human, so why not show that?"

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

But if a real smoking gun is found, that might change things, says Tom Peck
Twenty two years later Jurassic Park series faces questions over accuracy of the fictional dinosaurs in it

Tyrannosaurus wrecked?

Twenty two years on, Jurassic Park faces questions over accuracy
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
Genes greatly influence when and how many babies a woman will have, study finds

Mother’s genes play key role in decision to start a family

Study's findings suggest that human fertility is still evolving
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
England can win the Ashes – and Elvis Presley will present the urn

England can win the Ashes – and Elvis will present the urn

In their last five Test, they have lost two and drawn two and defeated an India side last summer who thought that turning up was competing, says Stephen Brenkley
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)