Coulthard extends welcome to British debutants

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On the eve of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, one former winner, David Coulthard, took time out from his own problems to offer his rookie fellow countrymen, Justin Wilson and Ralph Firman, some brotherly advice.

"They'll notice that it's a much heavier weekend compared to other grands prix because of the level of home support they'll get," Coulthard said. "They should give some time to the public because that's ultimately how we all get the great opportunity to be Formula One drivers. But they've also got to remember that they've got a job to do, so remain focused and do what they can."

That is advice he could well heed himself after a tough season since winning the opening race in Australia and having seen circumstance snatch another victory from his hands in Brazil. He has slumped to seventh place in the ratings on 29 points, 35 behind his old nemesis, Michael Schumacher, and trailing his own team-mate, Kimi Raikkonen, by 27.

Generally, the young Finn has comfortably outpaced him. Coulthard admits that he hates the single-lap qualifying format introduced to spice things up this year. "I don't think it is right to have your speed judged over just one lap. To me, that's not what racing is all about."

In races the Scot has been as fast as Raikkonen, but by starting further back he has lost his chance of scoring well. The pitstop kerfuffle that cost him a podium finish in the French Grand Prix a fortnight ago epitomises his season, and even the Formula One powerbroker, Bernie Ecclestone, has called on him to leave McLaren in search of a fresh challenge.

Such comments will affect the 32-year-old, who is one of the more introspective and gentlemanly racers in the game, but they are unlikely to diminish his resolve. The elusive world title may yet again be beyond his grasp, but he is determined to give his fans another strong performance.

"I feel very lucky to have won what, in my mind, are the big races at the most important tracks - Monaco, Spa and Monza - and the British Grand Prix is right at the top of the pack," he said. "Even as a young boy I could pick up on the atmosphere and the buzz that there was around the British drivers. To be honest, though, the British spectators are really appreciative of the sport, irrespective of what nationality the drivers are.

"My strongest memory of the British Grand Prix comes from my second year, in 1995. I was battling with Jean Alesi's Ferrari and I could hear the crowd down at Copse corner cheering above the noise of the cars when I overtook him. To be able to hear that was pretty impressive. My first win at the British Grand Prix was also very special. It was an excellent feeling to win on home soil, and I'll be aiming to feel it again this weekend."

As Coulthard dreams of another win, Wilson and Firman will be happy just to be in their home race. "There's a unique atmosphere and it will be special for me to have my family and friends there. The main thing for me is to attack the race as I would any other grand prix," Wilson said.

"Racing in front of your home crowd is very special. This will probably be one of the most memorable races of my season," Firman said. "Once you get your helmet on you start concentrating on the race, but before that - on the drivers' parade and on the parade lap - you think 'this is a very special moment', listening to the crowd and knowing that part of it's for you."

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