Coulthard's wrong turning

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The Independent Online

David Coulthard is a terrific advertisement for British sport. Brave, stoical and highly gifted in one of the most demanding of sports, he also displays a wry humour in the most testing of circumstances.

Perhaps not surprisingly, though, he was far from his philosophical best after being shunted out of the British Grand Prix and any realistic chance of winning his first world drivers' championship. He thought that, in view of the championship situation, Jarno Trulli should have given way at the first corner. Putting the rights and wrongs of the collision on one side, Coulthard's assertion is worrying. It suggests that he believes one rule should apply to him, and another to those unfortunates who spend most of their time some way from his slipstream.

Before Sunday's race he was equally emphatic about the fact that he expected his team-mate Mika Hakkinen to do all he could to help him in pursuit of his first title. Whether Hakkinen would have gone along with the plan we will now never know, but he certainly didn't embrace the idea too enthusiastically after beating Coulthard in qualifying on Saturday. "I would like to win the British Grand Prix," said a deadpan Hakkinen. The problem with that was that everyone knows that Coulthard made important contributions to the Finn's own world title triumphs in 1998 and 1999.

Equally, we know it is the custom of the big teams to shape events in favour of their star driver. It is the way of the sport and the way of the world. But perhaps motor racing shouldn't be quite so explicit about its machinations. The idea of real competition, illusory or not, is an important selling point. On Sunday Hakkinen won as he pleased. Had he been obliged to pull over for Coulthard, farce would have been added to injured entertainment value. Formula One has much thinking to do about the very basics of its operation. Manufacturing champions should not be seen to be done.