Less than best may not be enough for Coulthard

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The Independent Online

David Coulthard will be given every opportunity to win the world championship this year as he bids to secure his Formula One future.

The Scot has been promised the full backing of his McLaren team even though he will be replaced by Colombia's Juan Pablo Montoya in 2005.

But McLaren boss Ron Dennis has questioned whether the 32-year-old will want to drive for another team if he is not in a race-winning car.

"David's future is in his own hands," said Dennis. "But I am sure he will be a fierce competitor this year.

"I am certain that if David does a good job he is going to be absolutely employable

"We are going to give him every opportunity to win the world championship in our car. I still think David can be a world champion.

"If he did win the world title then we would be delighted for him."

Coulthard will be replaced by Montoya in 2005 as McLaren partner the Colombian with Finland's Kimi Raikkonen although no formal announcement has been made.

Jaguar and Toyota could lead the chase for Coulthard's services although Dennis believes the Monaco-based racer will settle for nothing less than a winning car.

And Dennis admits there are circumstances in which Coulthard could remain at McLaren especially if Montoya or Raikkonen are injured this year or in a test-driver role.

"I have not discussed this with David but I will be very surprised that if he has a good year he would want to drive in anything that was not a good race car," added Dennis.

"He will not make the mistake other drivers have made. If he cannot go forward with us or any other team then he will stop I think.

"No decision has been taken, that's just my view. He is a forward-looking guy and you could not wish for a better ambassador in a car. We all want him to succeed.

"David is not contracted to drive for someone else at the moment. Who says his career as a McLaren driver will be over in 2004 as there are lots of circumstances whereby David would still be driving for us."

Dennis admitted they could not turn down Montoya after the Williams driver approached them about racing for the team.

"At the end of the day it is out job to get the best two drivers available in our car," added Dennis, who likens Montoya to Brazil's Ayrton Senna who won his three world titles with the Woking-based outfit.

"I believe moving to McLaren will be good for Montoya. He has got that South American approach to motor racing, which reminds me of Ayrton.

"We think we know how to get the best out of him although only time will tell.

"Our first priority will be winning the world championship this year when he will be one of our main competitors so I hope he finishes third."