Friday August 17th, 2001
By Alan Baldwin
David Coulthard has contemplated what might have been in a season that has seen his Formula One title hopes rise and swiftly fade away.
The Scot, who smashed his McLaren on a kerb in the opening free practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix, said he might have been champion by now had he found this season's form earlier in his career. But he refused to be downcast and, sitting alongside Jordan's French veteran Jean Alesi at a news conference, preferred instead to revel in the pure enjoyment of being a racer.
"I think I've definitely improved with each year I've been in Formula One, been in a better position to make use of the machinery that's been given to me," said the Scot. "Obviously it doesn't look good today but I have actually made fewer mistakes.
"Of course occasionally it does cross my mind that had I been able to perform at this level at the time when the car was clearly the class of the field then you could be sitting there with WC after your name. But at the end of the day I enjoy the challenge of doing what I'm doing," said the Scot, who is 37 points behind Ferrari's Michael Schumacher.
Schumacher can clinch his fourth title in Sunday's race with four races to spare.
"I love doing what I do and when I hear Jean talking about his pure enjoyment of driving after all these years I think I'll be in that same category," added Coulthard. "There's just no feeling like being in a racing car and it's just all the other things round about the sport that are displeasurable.
"Getting in there and giving it one even when it's not working is a great feeling. I wish everybody can get the opportunity to feel what its like."
Coulthard, who has never finished a season higher than third place despite his team mate Mika Hakkinen winning in 1998 and 1999, said he was "pretty chilled" about missing the track time. But he was strongly critical of the kerb that smashed his car.
The Scot said the issue would be raised with the International Automobile Federation (FIA's) race director Charlie Whiting and he was confident it would be changed for Saturday's qualifying.
"I made a mistake going into the corner and understeered wide," said Coulthard. He said the guilty kerb was similar to ones used in Canada on the inside of the last chicane where they worked successfully.
"But I looked at the track yesterday and I thought this might be a bit difficult to have on the exit of the corner because they are about three-and-half inches high and it's not ramped up. In this case I ran wide and smashed the underside of my chassis so we'll have to change cars for tomorrow," he continued.
"I'm a little bit surprised, not just because I've made a mistake and paid the price for that, but that we allowed those kerbs to be put in place. It's one of the things we need to talk about with Charlie this evening because we've discussed many times in the drivers' meetings that the penalty for making a mistake should be a loss of time, it shouldn't be damaging your chassis.
"To have your car smashed on a kerb like that is just stupid really."
Published at 15:26:34 GMT