Atlas F1 News Service, a Reuters report

Coulthard Defends Safety Car Start

Sunday August 27th, 2000

Briton David Coulthard defended Formula One officials on Sunday, after the Belgian Grand Prix started tamely behind a safety car.

Former driver Martin Brundle, now a commentator for Britain's ITV television and also Coulthard's manager, told millions of viewers the track had not been wet enough for such a measure.

"It's terrifying, you can't even see your own steering wheel when you are going up the back straight but it's part and parcel of grand prix racing," he said of wet-weather starts.

"I started this race a dozen times and I bet at least half a dozen of those times was in the pouring rain."

However McLaren's Coulthard, who won at Spa last year, said FIA race director Charlie Whiting had asked him before the race about the safety car and he had agreed it should be used.

"It took away the opportunity to overtake but it also took away the potential for an incident," said the Scot, who is a drivers' representative on an FIA safety committee.

"I know there will be a debate over it but the fact is I was asked beforehand and I said that, based on the previous years we've had here, the safest thing is to have a safety car start.

"You can have the have-a-go heroes into the first corner and your whole weekend is ruined. so I'd rather be finishing fourth than going out at first corners.

In 1998, the race was halted after more than half the grid was caught up in the biggest opening lap pile-up in Formula One history. Coulthard was at the centre of that incident, with his car rebounding across the track at the La Source hairpin. "We've seen a mumber of incidents here over the last few years when we've had wet starts, with cars going out at the first corner," he said.

"Surely for everybody it's got to be better to see all the cars making it round the first lap and then race from there."

The safety car was used after heavy rain in the morning but the track dried quickly and drivers pitted to change from "wet" to "dry" tyres as early as the sixth lap.

The Scot said he had not given up on his title ambitions despite falling further behind with just four races remaining. He has 61 points, to Hakkinen's 74, after finishing fourth behind his winning team mate.

"I am (still chasing the title) but obviously now it's getting further away," said Coulthard.

"I don't know the exact maths but I guess I've got to win the next four races and that's going to be difficult against the competition, but a lot of things can happen."

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