2004 will be a crucial season for David Coulthard if he is to stay in Formula One in the future and he'll have to give it his all to find a competitive seat come 2005. With Juan Pablo Montoya already signed to McLaren for 2005, Coulthard looks likely to be the odd man out as Kimi Raikkonen is the favourite to partner Montoya. While McLaren refuses to confirm the future line up, Coulthard knows he has to look elsewhere.
"He didn't get the job done in the middle of last season and that was when McLaren started looking around and thinking about taking on Montoya. I think he got a bit scrambled in the head with the one-lap qualifying system."
Coulthard will have been with McLaren nine years at the end of next season but he was relegated to seventh in the standings in 2003, beaten by young guns such as Raikkonen and Renault's Fernando Alonso. The Scot only had one victory to his name, in Melbourne, and two other podium finishes.
One thing in Coulthard's favour could be the new MP4-19, with which he broke the lap record during winter testing at Valencia. McLaren is very positive about the car, which is reportedly fast, responsive and reliable. It's yet to be seen how it measures up to other teams' new cars as the 19 is the only 2004 chassis on track as yet.
McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa also tried out the 19 on the test track in December and was impressed: "The car is quick," he said. "I realised as soon as I drove it that it is much quicker than the old car, even if we still have a lot of work to do. Last year's car was competitive, but the new one is a big step forward."