Coulthard apologises to Schumacher

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The Independent Online

Scottish driver David Coulthard of McLaren-Mercedes, critical of Michael Schumacher's driving tactics throughout the season, made amends after the season concluded at the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang.

Scottish driver David Coulthard of McLaren-Mercedes, critical of Michael Schumacher's driving tactics throughout the season, made amends after the season concluded at the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang.

More than once during the season, Schumacher swerved his Ferrari in front of Coulthard at the start and in mid-race.

In one memorable incident at the French Grand Prix, Coulthard made an obscene gesture to Schumacher when Coulthard felt the move was illegal during an attempt to pass.

But all was forgotten, or at least forgiven, after the finish of the season's final race Sunday when Coulthard said he went over to Schumacher and apologized for any hot remarks he had made through the media. Any complaints, he said, should have been made face to face.

"I just want to end the season in the right way," Coulthard said. "At times during the weekend I could have talked to him, but I didn't want to give him an edge in the race so I waited until it was over."

Coulthard finished third in this season's championship, behind Schumacher and McLaren teammate Mika Hakkinen. It was the third time in four seasons that he ended up third overall.

Coulthard survived a plane crash that killed the pilot and co-pilot in Lyon, France, at the beginning of May. Five days later, he placed second at the Spanish Grand Prix with broken ribs.


Alain Prost may be the career leader in individual wins with 51 in Formula One, but he has struggled as the head of his self-named team, coming in last in the team standings without scoring a point.

Although Minardi also went scoreless, at least the Minardi drivers finished nearly all the races. Both Prost cars failed to finish in seven of the 17 races.

In the final race of the season, Jean Alesi finished 11th and Nick Heidfeld had an accident on the first lap.

"The race mirrors quite well our season overall. We finished the race, but without being competitive enough," Prost said. "It was difficult to hope for a really strong result in the very last race. In a way, we are happy that the season is over."

Prost is losing its main sponsor, French cigarette brand Gauloises Blondes, next year and is in search of a new one.

Peugeot, the engine supplier to the team since 1998, has pulled out of Formula One racing, but Prost has signed a deal with Ferrari to use its engines with the previous year's specifications.

"The challenge of our reconstruction begins as soon as today," Prost said.

Prost now has to worry that his record of 51 victories could be broken next year by Schumacher, who now has 44 and won nine times this season.

Schumacher said he was not seeking the record outright: "Statistics are a second priority."


Johnny Herbert, in his last Formula One race, went off the track in his Jaguar in a high-speed crash eight laps before the finish. The suspension broken, his left wheel flew off and he slid into a crash barrier.

Herbert had been running as high as fourth.

He was taken to a medical center, where precautionary X-rays revealed severe bruising to his left knee.

"I guess it was inevitable because I began my career by being carried to the car, I would end up being carried out of it," Herbert said. "I'm OK. I have a bit of pain in the left knee, but nothing too serious. There's nothing like ending your career with a bang."

Herbert crushed his feet in a terrifying Formula 3000 pileup at Brands Hatch, England, in 1988, but once carried to his private car, was still able to drive home.


The 2000 season is barely history but the teams are nearly complete in their driver's lineup for next year with only four real question marks.

The second driver at Prost and Sauber are still unfilled, while Minardi has yet to confirm officially Gaston Mazzacane and Marc Gene.

The top teams have been set for a long time. Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello are set for Ferrari until 2002 at least. McLaren is on year-to-year deals with Mike Hakkinen and David Coulthard and Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Jarno Trulli are returning to Jordan.

Jacques Villeneuve acquires a new teammate at BAR in Olivier Panis; Eddie Irvine at Jaguar is joined by Luciano Burti, who replaced him at the Austrian Grand Prix for one race this season, and Jenson Button is on loan from Williams to Benetton, where he will team with Giancarlo Fisichella.

Juan Pablo Montoya, the American ChampCar winner, is set for Williams along with Ralf Schumacher, Michael's brother.