Atlas F1 News Service, a Reuters report

Coulthard Looking Ahead to Fresh Start

Thursday March 1st, 2001

David Coulthard is really looking forward to Sunday's season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

The McLaren driver has had a tumultuous past 12 months and says he cannot wait to get back in the cockpit and put the past behind him.

The Scot has been under the spotlight since he miraculously walked away from the burning wreckage of his private jet when it crashed in France last year.

Incredibly, he returned to racing within a week and went on to finish third in the drivers' championship.

But since then the focus has turned to his private life.

"Last year was a hell of a year in many ways," Coulthard told a news conference on Thursday on the eve of the opening practice session for the Australian Grand Prix.

"I'm very much looking forward to this year and this race."

Coulthard refused to answer questions on his private life, saying his focus was on Sunday's race and nothing else.

He was clearly uncomfortable by the line of questioning and when pressed on it he snapped: "If you don't like the standard answer, don't ask the question."

Coulthard has won nine Grand Prix, including the 1997 Australian race, but has never quite climbed the sport's highest peak, finishing third in the drivers' championship in the past two years.

At 29 he says he knows time is running out but still feels confident he can win the championship.

"I don't feel as if I'm reaching the end of my ability. If anything I feel stronger mentally and physically.

"I'm 30 in March and I'm looking forward to that. The experience that goes with that hopefully means that I can achieve great success."

Coulthard won three races in 2000, two after his death-defying crash, but undermined his championship challenge with some elementary mistakes, stalling on the grid in Canada and false-starting at Indianapolis.

But at other times he showed why he remains a contender, outqualifying his more accomplished team mate Mika Hakkinen seven times in 17 races and getting past eventual champion Michael Schumacher several times during the season.

"The fact that I have managed to beat all my competitors in the past is confirmation that I have the ability," he said.

"All I need is a bit of reliability and consistency in my performance for this to happen. Just because it hasn't happened in the past doesn't mean it can't happen in the future."

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