Coulthard predicts Hamilton will improve

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The Independent Online

David Coulthard believes Formula One will see a different Lewis Hamilton this year and predicts the current world champion will get even better.

Hamilton will start the defence of his title next month after the dramatic finale to the 2008 season when he snatched the championship thrillingly in Brazil.

Rather than narrowly losing the title in consecutive years, Hamilton became the sport's youngest world champion - and Coulthard feels that will take the pressure off the 24-year-old.

Coulthard, a BBC pundit for the new season, said: "If he hadn't done it in year two, there may have been an element of desperation in year three.

"I think he will be a more relaxed, rounded guy with less to prove. It gives him an opportunity to unleash that last bit of his performance.

"Clearly he worked very hard and honed his talent on the racetrack. There were mistakes. Why do mistakes happen?

"At a certain point the brain doesn't quite connect with the body the way it normally does. That may be taken out of his game and take him to another level."

Meanwhile, former team owner Eddie Jordan, Coulthard's fellow pundit, has called on Sir Richard Branson to save Honda from pulling out of Formula One.

Honda announced last year the global economic crisis caused it to leave the sport and the clock is ticking on finding a buyer before the start of the season, in Australia next month.

Branson is interested in becoming involved but he has refused to confirm he was in talks with Honda, with Jordan insisting the Virgin boss would be perfect to resurrect the team.

Jordan will be a BBC pundit for their coverage this year, with fans relieved that famous theme tune by Fleetwood Mac will be used at the start of their programmes. He also feels British supporters will also see Jenson Button when Honda get rescued.

"Knowing Honda, and winning races with Jordan thanks to a Honda engine, I want to see how they emerge from this," Jordan said.

"Can Virgin buy it? We know how good Richard Branson is, he is the world's leading exponent in marketability.

"Even if they hand it to him for a dollar, it would do a lot of good if they can get him on the grid.

"To lose them to F1, with their history, is not something I want to see."