Motor Racing: Coulthard tries to find way out of trap: Guy Hodgson reports from Silverstone on the problems in the Williams-Renault pit

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The Independent Online
THERE were dark mutterings in the Williams-Renault pit yesterday. Not with David Coulthard the team would hasten to add, the consensus being he has done a promising job in less than perfect circumstances, but for the 23-year-old Scot the whispers, inspired by team mishaps, might as well have been aimed at him.

The equation that faces him is simple. He has to build an image of indispensability pretty damn quick or he could be looking for a new car to drive next season. Unfortunately Sod was pretty damn quicker to apply his Law yesterday. Bad luck was overtaken by miscalculation and, as a result he could record only the sixth-fastest time in the first qualifying session for tomorrow's British Grand Prix.

Which was a lost opportunity for Coulthard, whose urgency to impress is heightened by Damon Hill being ahead of him in the pecking order and not diminished by the looming prospect of Nigel Mansell returning to Williams in his mirror. Three drivers into two cars will not go and yesterday might have pushed Coulthard nearer the ejector seat.

In the morning a wheel jammed and, as a result, he was not fully able to shake off race rustiness accumulated while Mansell competed in the French Grand Prix last Sunday.

In the afternoon, with the team also contemplating errors with the set-up of Hill's car, he spun off the track just when it appeared he might challenge Michael Schumacher's position at the top of the provisional grid. It was, to put it tactfully, a frustrating day.

'I'm very disappointed,' Coulthard said afterwards. 'I think I could have taken at least half a second off my time, maybe a second. I set my fastest time in my first lap and you always hold back a little bit then to leave a marker and ensure you qualify for the grid. I'd have gone quicker if I'd had the opportunity.'

Instead, when he tried to go for a flyer he ended up leaving the tell-tale marks on his car of an unplanned visit to the gravel trap. Taking Bridge Corner at around 180mph, his calculations were put awry by a series of bumps and he ended the qualifying session early by way of a spin.

'I closed my eyes and waited for the bump,' he said, 'but it never happened. It's a flat-out corner and you have to go for it but I lost control and suddenly I was going backwards. I thought 'this is probably going to be very sore'.'

Fortunately for him, the worst that happened was a high-speed whirl of his senses. Only his ambition had been hurt yesterday.

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