British driver determined to be on the grid for 2005
The news that Ralf Schumacher will head Toyotas challenge in 2005 was hardly unexpected, but has kick-started the driver market speculation which usually gets underway in August.
One thing that is certain, however, is that David Coulthard, who is expected to leave McLaren at the end of the season after nine years, wants to carry on racing. Rejecting the idea that he might accept a deal to stay on as McLarens test driver, the 33 year-old Scot said at Silverstone yesterday: I am firmly focused on racing next year. It depends on the other party, and is a question of whether you fit into whats available. People have different agendas, and may be hunting down other possibilities, but if there is any doubt over my absolute performance it is based on last years qualifying, not this years.
Both Coulthard and Jenson Button, the two Brits on the grid this weekend, were cautious in assessing their chances in their home race. I think there is a chance of that, the former responded when asked about the prospects of a podium finish in his improved McLaren MP4-19B, while Button said: I think it would be a great party. Then he added: I think winning would be a great achievement for us but I think it is going to be very difficult the way the Ferraris are going at the moment, but, you know, anything can happen. We know we are quick here and we need to put them under pressure but I am sure that there is more than just BAR thinking of doing that this weekend. It is going to be a tough weekend and a very competitive weekend, but there is always a possibility.
The weather may not now be quite as inclement as the initial forecasts suggested, but if it does rain, either in qualifying or the race itself, the tyre situation will be even more fascinating. I think the reality of the situation is there are very specific weather conditions that suit the Bridgestones better than the Michelins and likewise with the Michelins over the Bridgestones, Coulthard said. We have a new rain tyre which we believe to be a step forward. Michelin have done a lot of wet weather testing with some of the other teams. We havent taken part in than, nonetheless it gives us a step forward. And it really comes down to does the duration of the rain, the type of rain, suit our tyre at that time?
This track does hold puddles, so aquaplaning can be a bit of an issue, especially if it stops raining and you are on the shallow wets rather than the full wets.
So I think it will be a very changeable circuit that you would see if we had a downpour and then it was running into a dry track. The truth is that it is going to be down to how much track temperature there is. It is not just down to the quantity of rain, it is how much temperature there is on the surface and how much that effects how the compound works. It is very variable but that would make it very exciting.
What makes the prospects for this weekend even more interesting is that all of the top six teams have had strong tests at Silverstone at some stage of the year.