Steadfast Coulthard refuses to concede title

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The Independent Online

David Coulthard, still in contention for the Formula One drivers' championship going into the Italian Grand Prix at Monza on Sunday, has dismissed suggestions that he has been told to act as an understudy to his McLaren co-driver and championship leader, Mika Hakkinen.

David Coulthard, still in contention for the Formula One drivers' championship going into the Italian Grand Prix at Monza on Sunday, has dismissed suggestions that he has been told to act as an understudy to his McLaren co-driver and championship leader, Mika Hakkinen.

With four races of the season left - Italy, America, Japan and Malaysia - Coulthard trails Hakkinen by 13 points, the 29-year-old already having admitted he must win this weekend to keep his title hopes alive.

Coulthard has also been assured he does not have to support the flying Finn just yet, with Hakkinen aiming to emulate the feat of Juan Manuel Fangio in the mid-1950s by winning a hat-trick of world titles.

"I don't believe there will be any team orders," Coulthard said. "Things have been said in private that make me very confident I will be given my chance to race for the title.

"I am certainly not giving up on it. Why should I? There are 40 points available for maximum finishes in the next four races and I am only 13 points behind Mika. Even though it has been a bit of a struggle at times, I am still there."

But even Ferrari's owner Gianni Agnelli believes Hakkinen, who has won three of the last four races, is more than likely to take his place in the record books this season.

Although Michael Schumacher will have the backing this weekend of Ferrari's fanatical support, Agnelli feels Hakkinen is a "60 per-cent favourite" to make it three in a row.

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