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  Friday, 13 July, 2001, 12:59 GMT 13:59 UK
Coulthard refuses to lose heart
David Coulthard in action during the Canadian Grand Prix
Coulthard admits his driving is improving every season
David Coulthard talks exclusively to BBC Sport Online's Andrew Benson in the first of a two-part interview from Silverstone.

David Coulthard is looking on the bright side as the Formula One season enters its final stretch.

He has to. The 30-year-old Scot has finally established his supremacy over Mika Hakkinen only to see his title chances slip away because of some mistakes by his McLaren team.

It's ironic. If the two drivers had performed in 1998 or 1999 as they are doing now, Coulthard would probably have won the championship. As it is Hakkinen ruled the roost.


In many ways, if you can still achieve success when things aren't 100%, it should in theory be easier once things come right
David Coulthard

Coulthard makes no attempt to hide his frustration, but he is not one for getting down.

"It is a little bit disappointing, but it's still not a bad opportunity, and you have to just go with it," he says.

"You've got to say Michael had that situation for a few years at Ferrari and was still able to win races, so that's my goal.

"In many ways, if you can still achieve success when things aren't 100%, it should in theory be easier once things come right."

The signs are that Coulthard will have to wait until next year to put his theory to the test, by which time McLaren-Mercedes will hope to have solved the problems that have held them back this year.

If Coulthard does not win at Silverstone this weekend, he can effectively forget about winning the championship in 2001.

Schumacher is already 31 points ahead with just seven races to go.

David Coulthard wins the Portuguese Grand Prix
Coulthard enjoyed success at Williams

What makes it harder to stomach for Coulthard is that he believes he would be going for his second world title this year had he not decided to leave Williams and join McLaren for the 1996 season.

It is the one thing in his career that he regrets.

"I probably would have won the championship that year had I not gone," he admits.

"In the short term, it was a step back, but obviously in the long term it turned the way I thought it was going to turn with the evidence and information we had.

"In many ways, it was a good move, but a year too early."

The switch was indeed a good one in the long term, given that Williams spent three years in the wilderness from 1998-2000 while McLaren dominated F1.

Unfortunately for Coulthard, Hakkinen was pretty much unbeatable at the time.

That has changed this year.

Hakkinen is out-of-sorts while Coulthard has an edge to him, an extra toughness, focus and determination that wasn't always there.

His performances have backed up his claims that he is getting better - and will continue to do so.

If he can do that, he believes the championship will finally come his way.

Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard at a press conference
Coulthard has taken a back seat to Hakkinen
"Even last year I was better than the year before, and I think that there has been a trend," he says.

"It may not have been there in terms of points and race wins, but all I've ever asked is for people to have a balanced opinion, taking into account all the facts.

"I believe if you looked at all those, there was reason to support the view that, despite points, wins and where I was in the championship, there was improvement, and that's all I've ever said.

"That's all I've believed in.

"But it's not about what's reported, it's about what the team think and what you do on the track."

In 2001, even his critics can have no complaints about that.

In the second instalment of his exclusive interview with BBC Sport Online, Coulthard talks about being the butt of jokes and becoming a playboy in the eyes of the tabloid press.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
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10 Jul 01 | Formula One
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