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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 December, 2003, 17:13 GMT
McLaren axe to fall on Coulthard
By Andrew Benson
Motorsport editor

David Coulthard
Coulthard will have to find a new team for 2005
David Coulthard will be dropped by McLaren at the end of the forthcoming season, leaving Kimi Raikkonen to partner Juan Pablo Montoya in 2005.

McLaren have yet to confirm who will partner Montoya, who will join from Williams at the end of next season.

But suggestions that Raikkonen is out of contract at the end of 2004 are "not true", a source has told this website.

The source added that McLaren signed Montoya with the intention of him teaming up with Raikkonen.

McLaren are understood to have an option on the Finn's services, which they will take up.

Coulthard, who has driven for McLaren since 1996, will therefore have to find another team for 2005.

He is likely to have a number of options - Toyota and Jaguar are among the teams who have expressed an interest in signing him in recent seasons.

BBC Sport has also learned that Montoya signed for McLaren as long ago as last July, even though the team only announced his move in November.

Juan Pablo Montoya (left) and Kimi Raikkonen at a news conference in 2003
Montoya and Raikkonen will make a formidable pairing
A partnership of Raikkonen and Montoya would give McLaren arguably the strongest driver line-up in Formula One.

The only way Coulthard would have a chance of staying on at McLaren would be if Raikkonen decided to quit the team rather than have Montoya as a team-mate, another source said.

But this is unlikely to happen.

For Raikkonen to leave, another team would have to then buy him out of his contract.

The only two outfits that would not be a step down for Raikkonen, who was second in the 2003 world championship to Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher, are Ferrari and Williams.

But Williams are renowned for paying lower salaries than McLaren, and Raikkonen is unlikely to be prepared to partner the domineering Schumacher.

The German insists upon having priority status over his team-mates, and he is contracted to Ferrari until the end of 2006.

A McLaren spokeswoman said on Tuesday: "At the moment we do not want to confirm our complete 2005 driver line-up.

"We have an option on a number of drivers and as always want to make sure we are in the best possible position to win races and world championships."




SEE ALSO
'Tough times ahead' for Montoya
26 Dec 03  |  Formula One
Raikkonen aims to beat Montoya
18 Nov 03  |  Formula One
Golden season beckons for F1
29 Dec 03  |  Formula One
McLaren gear up for title assault
23 Dec 03  |  Formula One
Bold new dawn for McLaren
23 Dec 03  |  Formula One
McLaren grab Montoya
17 Nov 03  |  Formula One
Coulthard eyes title charge
22 Aug 03  |  Formula One
Coulthard stays at McLaren
22 Aug 03  |  Formula One


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