Timothy Collings' European GP
Saturday May 20th, 2000
By Timothy Collings
Briton David Coulthard made light of the discomfort he feels from his healing rib cage on Saturday by joking his way through a news conference after grabbing pole position for McLaren in Sunday's European Grand Prix.
The 29-year-old Scot, who escaped with only slight injuries from a fatal plane crash which killed two people at Lyons in France 18 days earlier, admitted he was still in some pain, but not enough to limit his hopes of winning his second race of the year.
Coulthard clocked the fastest time to qualify ahead of championship-leading German Michael Schumacher, in a Ferrari, with defending champion Finn Mika Hakkinen third in the second McLaren ahead of Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, who was fourth in the second Ferrari.
The final positions meant that the McLaren and Ferrari teams had one car each on the front two rows of the grid for a race in which Schumacher will be attempting to defend his 14-points lead over Hakkinen in the drivers' title race.
But Coulthard, 16 points behind the German, secured a perfect opportunity to close the gap as well by taking pole and, as he said he hoped, becoming the first pole-sitter to win a Formula One Grand Prix in 10 races since Hakkinen at the 1999 Hungarian Grand Prix.
"It is the first time for ages when I have been satisfied with the car and the only thing I changed during the session was the tyres," said Coulthard. "Normally I am changing everything. Obviously, we were expecting the rain and so I just concentrated on getting a good lap in and it has paid off."
No Special Strapping
Asked about his condition after reportedly cracking three ribs in the plane crash and how he would prepare for the 67-laps race, Coulthard said he would take pain-killers, but not wear any special strapping.
The top drivers all had their action curtailed by a heavy rainstorm midway through the session.
At that time, Coulthard was on top of the times ahead of Schumacher, and, despite a final flurry when all the leading contenders attempted to improve their times in the last three minutes of the session, the order remained the same.
For Coulthard, it was his first pole position for nearly two years since the Canadian Grand Prix in Monteal in 1998 and the ninth of his career.
The Scot's performance left him one-tenth of a second ahead of Schumacher with Hakkinen, the defending world champion, a disappointed third ahead of Barrichello. Ralf Schumacher was fifth in his Williams and Italian Jarno Trulli sixth for Jordan.
"I am not disappointed with second place," said Michael Schumacher. "I am sure I could have gone quicker especially as I made a mistake on my quick run at turn five. But starting from the front row will allow us to work out a good strategy for the race."
Briton Jenson Button, 20, who was fastest in Friday's practice in the second Williams, was unable to repeat the feat on Saturday and wound up in 11th place on the grid, having improved his time in the final flurry.
He said: "It wasn't the best I could have done. I didn't really get it all together until right at the end of the session when the circuit was not so good. Starting 11th is not too bad as I think I can make a good start and still get some points."