Motor racing: Street life suits Coulthard in race of the residents

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The Independent Online
THIS, David Coulthard contends, is his scene. Not as one of the posers, you understand, but as a racing driver intent on hauling himself back on to the heels of Mika Hakkinen in the world drivers' championship.

Coulthard and Hakkinen are among 10 Formula One drivers who live, nominally at least, in the principality. However, while Coulthard has made himself at home in the Monaco Grand Prix, Hakkinen has looked embarrassingly misplaced in the past, and Sunday's race is a potentially defining confrontation for both.

Hakkinen's best position here is the sixth he achieved in 1996, and that in freak circumstances, when he failed to finish.

Coulthard was second that day and has consistently been quicker than the Finn in the face of the unique challenge presented by this street circuit.

Coulthard, trailing by seven points, after Hakkinen's victory in Spain said: "This is one of my best circuits and so I believe I have a great opportunity on Sunday. Spain went his way but I have maintained all along there will be races where he goes well and races where I go well.

"This track is one of the great challenges in Formula One and I feel it brings the best out of me. Mika has had his problems here in the past and it is the kind of circuit where you cannot afford any mistakes.

"I don't think living here has any real advantage when it comes to the race. You just feel that bit more comfortable and relaxed. But then there are a lot of us living here, including Mika."

Hakkinen admitted he was eager to put a stop to his calamitous sequence. "It has been a really bad race for me," he said. "I have some difficult years. I did win a race, in 1993, but it was not in Formula One. I'd rather not talk about the other years.

"It's nice to be in Monaco and sleep in my own bed. Then I can just get on the scooter and go to the circuit. It makes life easier."

Hakkinen maintains, however, that driving a McLaren is not as easy as it looks. While most observers would welcome Michael Schumacher's intervention in the proceedings, Hakkinen said: "It is not the cruise it can seem. I am still fighting - I am fighting with myself and with the car. It is not always about fighting other drivers."

Many would argue it is about racing other drivers. Those seeking more variety will be encouraged by Schumacher's record here - three wins in the last four years. The German, who is third in the title chase, said: "I don't think it is right to say this is a key race. It is too early in the season to talk that way. But it would be useful to stay in contact."

Entertainment is no concern of Coulthard or Hakkinen, however. "I'm here to win," Coulthard said, "not to worry about the show." Hakkinen added: "I suppose the public would like to see more action but I am not looking for any change."