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Tuesday, 20 June, 2000, 09:28 GMT 10:28 UK
McLaren's Magny Cours mission
David Coulthard
Coulthard was flying before penalty halted his progress
BBC's Motor Racing Correspondent Jonathan Legard believes McLaren must lift themselves after their Montreal misery.

McLaren's 500th grand prix party cake was almost untouched after Sunday's Montreal race.

If only David Coulthard could have said the same about Michael Schumacher's lead in the championship.

Coulthard's self-confessed error in stalling on the grid cost him not only ten seconds in the pitlane but also ten points in the title race.

"I'm in the same position that I was before Monaco - 22 points behind," Coulthard said.

"But there's no way the championship is over. There are still nine races left, starting with France in two weeks.

There's no way the championship is over

David Coulthard
"It was my mistake. I stalled 35 seconds before the start and I thought the mechanics had enough time to fix it.

"I know what the rules say about the grid being clear 15 seconds before the formation lap but you'd have thought the stewards could have discretion in certain circumstances," the Scot added.

Michael's mastery

Coulthard's relegation from 2nd to 10th played perfectly into Schumacher's plans and the German never looked in any danger of losing.

"I guessed there was something wrong because his mechanics were on the grid later than the limit but David was not close enough to attack me," he said.

"After he had gone, I eased up to avoid mistakes."

This is, however, not quite true, as Coulthard was right up the Ferrari's gearbox before serving his penalty.

And later Schumacher went off into the gravel when the rain was at its most torrential.

Michael Schumacher
Schumacher: Pole position in championship
He also had to nurse a struggling car home, which explained why his team-mate Rubens Barrichello was almost alongside by the flag.

"It was a worry. There was something wrong at the back of the car so I had slowed up near the end," the German said.

"So thank you to my team-mate for protecting me. He is a good guy and one day I will pay him back."

On the subject of his lead in the world championship, Schumacher remained tight-lipped.

"There is no need to think of the title," he said.

"There is a golden rule that only when you can't lose mathematically can you feel like a champion.

"My ten years in Formula One has taught me not to take anything for granted."

Ferrari's sporting director, Jean Todt, sounded an equally cautious note which may console McLaren after only Mika Hakkinen scored points in 4th.

Drivers' Championship standings
1. Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 56 points
2. David Coulthard (McLaren), 34
3. Mika Hakkinen (McLaren), 32
4. Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari), 28
5. Giancarlo Fisichella (Benetton), 18
6. Ralf Schumacher (Williams), 12
"We have to be very careful," said Todt.

"If the second half of the season is for McLaren like the first half was for us, then it will be very close."

Focus on France

That said, McLaren haven't won at the Magny Cours circuit in mid France since Alain Prost in 1989.

Schumacher has won there four times in the last six years, and if he makes it five, he'll equal Ayrton Senna's total of 41 F1 wins, with only Prost's record of 51 beyond him.

And the way he and Ferrari are performing, don't bet on that one lasting much longer.

Montreal was David Coulthard's first failure since his recent charge began at Silverstone, but it maintained his record of never having won two races in succession.

More puzzling, though, is Mika Hakkinen's drop in form.

Where is that unstoppable zip in qualifying, such a crucial part of his armoury?

He's been off pole for the last five races - his longest break since his first pole position in 1997.

Ron Dennis has insisted Hakkinen's motivation is fine, but the results currently do not stack up like they used to.

Jacques Villeneuve
Whither Jacques?
Dennis also accused Jacques Villeneuve of "kamikaze tactics" in the race, after the Canadian driver collided with Ralf Schumacher.

Villeneuve's future

Over the race weekend, speculation about Villeneuve's future reached fever pitch in his home country.

Was he staying at BAR? Has he demanded $20 million to stay?

Has he signed a letter of intent with Renault to join Benetton? Was he talking to Jaguar?

BAR, however, insist he is "90% certain" to stick with them.

Certainly qualifying sixth was encouraging. His leap to third at the start was brilliant.

But the race was a constant struggle, as it is every time in BAR colours.

And until Villeneuve decides where his future lies there will be a number of drivers, not to mention BAR, feeling a little nervous about next season.

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See also:

18 Jun 00 | Motorsport
Schu shines in Canada rain
16 Jun 00 | Motorsport
Coulthard fastest in Canada
15 Jun 00 | Motorsport
Schu is man to beat
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