By Andrew Benson
Motorsport editor at the Hungaroring
David Coulthard believes that McLaren's new car will give him a real chance of winning the world championship next season.
Coulthard, who McLaren confirmed on Friday would be staying with the team in 2004, has been encouraged by the performance of the troubled MP4-18 in tests this season.
While McLaren have not yet officially abandoned hope that the MP4-18 will race this season, it is certain that it will form the basis of next year's car, the MP4-19.
"I really feel very positive about next season because the 18 is showing significant steps forward," said Coulthard.
"By the time we race it, it will be the 19 and I really think McLaren will take a big step forward next year."
He added: "I think in many ways I have more optimism and excitement for the start of next year than I had this year because we knew we were starting with the 17 [last year's car] and it was always going to be we were starting with an updated old car.
"You might just have to write that British World Championship headline that you have been saving up for years and years."
Coulthard insists he has not been unsettled by McLaren's pursuit of Williams driver Juan Pablo Montoya, who is expected to replace the Scot at the team in 2005.
"There is always a pressure to get the job done and, whether you are at the beginning of your career on a one-year contract or whether you are on a multi-year contract in the middle of your career, it doesn't actually change a great deal.
"You have to perform and if there is a better option available then the chances are they will be in the car.
"Every year there are rumours, it is not unique to this year.
"Every year there has been someone else coming to the team, throughout my whole career at McLaren there has been speculation of Damon [Hill] coming, Jacques [Villeneuve] coming, Eddie [Irvine] coming, everyone's coming.
"But at the end of the day I am here and I still believe in my potential.
"Not once in my career have I thought I could just sit back and relax. It is not in my nature."
Coulthard has been overshadowed by team-mate Kimi Raikkonen this season, but said that if he can sort out his problems in qualifying he can be a contender in 2004.
"This year there have been some average performances in qualifying but I don't think I have anything to be ashamed of in my race pace and my ability to get stuck in," he said.
"The fact is even with what has been an average year I am still in with a mathematical chance of the world championship. It is quite close out there.
"If I put the car in a good position in qualifying I can race as well as anyone and I can create opportunities as well as anyone."