Coulthard plays down team orders talk

David Coulthard insisted that he would not be in a position to influence the championship battle between his McLaren team-mate Mika Hakkinen and Ferrari's Michael Schumacher, despite qualifying right behind the duelling pair at Suzuka

Coulthard plays down team orders talk

Coulthard has always struggled at the Japanese track in the past, but today he qualified within a respectable 0.4s of Schumacher's pole time. At the US Grand Prix a fortnight ago, the Scot was criticised by Schumacher for delaying him in an effort to allow Hakkinen to close in on his title rival. Now the FIA has warned of harsh penalties for anyone who tries to interfere with the championship battle, but Coulthard played down the amount of influence he could have on the outcome of the title contest.

"I just want to try and do my best," he said. "I think everyone is over-playing what the teams can do. I can't be miraculously put in front of Michael, but if I get in front of one of them then who knows what can happen?"

The Scot explained that this result had come of something of a relief after he had struggled for pace during practice.

"I was never in a position to challenge for pole," he admitted. "I'm the only one [of the top three] who didn't think he could be on pole.

"I've struggled a little bit to find the right balance. I couldn't get enough grip from the rear. You lose a little bit of confidence and on a long track like this, it makes a difference. But I'm quite happy to have made some improvements and got closer to the front."

Coulthard is joined on row two by his Ferrari counterpart Rubens Barrichello, another man who could be under pressure to tailor his race strategy to help his team mate's title chances. If Schumacher wins tomorrow's race he will have done enough to secure Ferrari's first drivers' title since Jody Scheckter in 1979.

Click here for full qualifying results.

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