Monday June 11th, 2001
Ferrari's world champion Michael Schumacher still has a battle on his hands despite forging 18 points clear in the Formula One title race, according to McLaren's David Coulthard.
And the Scot aims to use the German's first home appearance of the year to show how quickly the tables can be turned. Schumacher was runner-up behind the Williams driven by his younger brother Ralf in Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix while Coulthard failed to finish for the first time this year.
Schumacher now heads for the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring in two weeks' time with 58 points from eight races, two more than at the same halfway stage last season when he took the title. Coulthard has 40 - six more than in 2000. Ferrari also lead the constructors' challenge with 82 points to McLaren's 48.
But Coulthard, whose run as the only driver to score points in every race ended in Montreal when his engine blew while he was running fourth, remained confident.
"He's got a big lead but that can be turned around in two races and that's what we're working towards," he told reporters in the paddock after the race. "It (the title) is still achievable. But I can only do what I can do. Walking on water isn't something I've mastered yet.
"I think Ferrari still have a bit of a qualifying advantage because they use their tyres better but I still think we have a strong race car. I still believe I can win Grands Prix and be a challenge to Michael."
Team boss Ron Dennis backed him up, saying that both the championships were still wide open.
"Things can turn around," said Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug. "He (Coulthard) can be in a position in the next race to win and others may struggle. It is not impossible to gain 18 points over your competition in nine races."
But Haug did admit that reliability had handicapped the team in races they had expected to win such as Spain and Monaco - Hakkinen leading in Barcelona until his clutch exploded and electronics failing Coulthard at the start of both.
"But David being on the finish line seven times in eight races is a good score in comparison to everybody. If he continues like that, and he is a strong guy, he is in a good position to fight."
Ralf Schumacher's win for Williams confirmed that team as the third force in the championship but the German was under no illusions about the title prospects despite clearly targeting McLaren's position as runners-up.
"Are we going for the championship?," he asked rhetorically, before adding his answer. "You know after Imola everyone should have seen what happened, as a package we are too young."
Ralf won the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola in April, but Williams have struggled to finish since then.
"I mean, we are going to show up from time to time I'm pretty sure, but depending on the tyres," added Ralf. "Michelin hasn't got the experience Bridgestone has and I'm sure there will be occasions when we just don't get it right. Aerodynamically we are not where we want to be as well so we can't go for the championship.
"But we can try and take advantage of some other teams weaknesses and maybe be second in the teams' championship."
Williams, who use Michelin tyres, have managed just four finishes in 16 starts this season, although those four have been two wins and a second place as well as a fifth. Ralf has provided both wins and three of the finishes, a situation that will inevitably enhance his standing while piling added pressure on Colombian newcomer Juan Pablo Montoya.
Montoya crashed out on Sunday after a weekend that saw him trade accusations and then physically scuffle with local favourite Jacques Villeneuve and earn a stiff reprimand about his behaviour from team boss Frank Williams. Montoya needs to start finishing races. When he does, Williams' prospects in the constructors race should pick up considerably.