Coulthard determined to come back stronger

David Coulthard says he's determined to emerge as a stronger World Championship force after Tuesday's plane crash in France

Coulthard determined to come back stronger

The Scot appeared unaffected as he took to his McLaren for the first time since the tragic events earlier in the week which claimed the lives of the two pilots.

"I firmly believe I will be a stronger person after this. It's a little like before I had my first proper shunt in a Grand Prix car during a test session at Silverstone," he said.

"Before that happened there was always the thought of the unknown. Everyone is like that. When we do not know something we are always a little bit cautious.

"Once you've had the big shunt you know what it's all about and can be confident about it. I felt stronger as a person then and I will do after this. Within a day, I was back on a plane flying here.

"It was great to be back in the car because nothing changes once you get here. It's my job," said the Scot.

"I have a strong desire not to allow what happened this week to get in the way of my performance. Driving is the most important thing for me - it's what I get up for in the morning.

"I want to try and be as quick as I can. I still feel that, as a driver, I am on the way up, and I don't want anything to get in the way of that."

Battling to take the World Championship fight to rival Michael Schumacher, who leads by 20 points, Coulthard wound up fifth at the end of Friday's practice session, four places behind the German, but two ahead of his team-mate Mika Hakkinen.

"It was good to see that first lap. There was a little bit of discomfort from the bruising, but I am not going to let that affect me," he added.

"Looking at the test, Ferrari were concentrating on short runs. They were doing a lot of low fuel runs, trying to maximise their qualifying performance, while we stuck to our normal test programme."

Coulthard hit back at critics who said he should have missed the race out of respect for the two dead pilots, Dan Worley and David Saunders.

"I would say that had it been the other way then I would have wanted the pilots to fly again," he said.

"It was not just their job, it was what they loved. Flying an aircraft is a little like driving a racing car. It goes beyond a normal job, it's also a passion. I would have wanted them to continue if that's what they wanted.

"I only had a brief conversation with them, but I could tell there was a glint in their eyes towards motorsport and towards the fact I was flying with them.

"It doesn't matter what everyone else thinks, it's what I feel. I would not be driving the car if I wasn't totally comfortable with my decision."

The Scot has the best opportunity of his career to go for the World Championship, having seen it slip through his fingers, once as team-mate to Damon Hill, and twice at McLaren alongside Hakkinen for the past two years.

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