Coulthard's 'battle' to beat Eau Rouge

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The Independent Online

The three contenders for the dubious distinction of being second best in the Formula One World Championship duly endeavoured to talk a good fight, but it was an old, long-retired champion who reminded everyone: "There are still races to be won and that's what all these guys are gong for."

The words came from Niki Lauda now team principle of Jaguar, and this is one race no man has to sell. The Belgian Grand Prix circuit is the most popular and challenging race of all for drivers. It remains a link with a by-gone age of awesome road courses.

Eau Rouge is the most feared and fabled of the corners on this high-speed circuit in the Ardennes, while the temperamental climate compounds the anxiety factor. The three drivers competing for second place, David Coulthard, Ruben Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher all expressed their doubts about the adequacy of the run-off areas.

In recent times the circuit has lived up to its reputation as a perilous course, including a 13-car pileup and a terrifying incident when Michael Schumacher ran into the back of Coulthard's car.

As they prepared for Sunday's race, Coulthard declared Eau Rouge: "A personal battle", Barrichello confessed to "relief" when he negotiated the 180 mile per hour left-right kink, and the younger Schumacher just happened to mention that rain was forecast for the Grand Prix.

Coulthard effectively dismissed the significance of finishing runner-up to Micheal Schumacher after the German confirmed his fourth championship success in Hungary, 12 days ago. However, the McLaren Mercedes driver, five points ahead of Ferrari's Barrichello and seven clear of Williams BMW Ralf Schumacher, with four races remaining maintained yesterday: "I didn't say I wasn't interested in finishing second. My motivation is to win. I want to win the races that are left this season. If I do the second best job overall, I'll finish second in the Championship."

Barrichello, meanwhile, wants to finish second and complete a Ferrari clean sweep. The Brazilian said: "Now that Michael has won the championship second is the best place left and Michael has said he will support me and it's not always he says he will help me. So now I have to make the most of this opportunity."

The younger Schumacher said: "I didn't expect to be in this position and now that I am I will try for that second place. But for the team it is more important to finish second in the Constructor's Championship."

For that reason he does not anticipate the assistance of his team mate, Juan Pablo Montoya. Coulthard too, is not holding his breath for his partner, Mika Hakkinen, to rally to his cause.

The elder Schumacher, meanwhile, may have the championship tucked away, but he still has the incentive to win here. He can establish an outright record of 52 victories on the circuit where he made his Grand Prix debut, a decade ago.