Fabian Coulthard says not being the early points leader gives him some freedom to 'take a few more risks' as he looks to claim a maiden Supercars title.
The DJR Team Penske driver has endured a rocky start to the 2018 season, currently sitting ninth in the points after four rounds, 285 behind teammate Scott McLaughlin.
He's been on the podium just twice, thanks to a pair of thirds at the Australian Grand Prix, while issues such as a wheel nut failure in Tasmania, and a disqualification from Saturday qualifying due to a technical infringement at Phillip Island, have been costly.
The relatively difficult start to the year leaves him in a significantly different position to 12 months ago, when he was the runaway early points leader. Coulthard initially held the championship lead until the end of the Townsville round in July, before taking over again between Bathurst and the second race of the Gold Coast weekend.
His title charge then came to an end at Pukekohe, a rollover effectively turning the title into a two-way showdown between Jamie Whincup and McLaughlin.
While Coulthard has significantly more to do this time around in terms of his sheer pointscore, he's not seeing it as a bad thing. Instead, the Kiwi reckons chasing not leading the pack gives him a little more freedom to take risks against the likes of his teammate, the Triple Eight trio, and Erebus star David Reynolds.
"We just have to work hard, race hard, and keep doing the job," Coulthard told Motorsport.com.
"We have a small deficit now but I’m not writing my season off by any means. We can afford to take a few more risks because of where we are in the championship, so I’m looking forward to that.
"We’ve just been a little bit unlucky – things like what happened to the wheel at Tasmania while we were in a good position, Adelaide where the car just wasn’t comfortable. But at the [Australian] Grand Prix, we got two podiums.
"So I’d say the car is still fast enough, we just haven’t had things go our way."
Coulthard added that being able to lean on highly-rated teammate McLaughlin and superstar engineer Ludo Lacroix has helped both sides of the DJR Team Penske garage, something that could prove crucial as the squad looks to bag a title after missing out in 2017.
"That’s the beauty of our team as a driving group," he said.
"What works for me works for [Scott], what works for him works for me. And we get on so well, so our engineering group does a great job of bringing both the cars together.
"Our styles are slightly different but we’re close enough where we definitely learn from one another, and that’s important. You don’t want a team’s cars going down two different avenues of development, because then you do end up with two single-car teams. Our team can work as one.
"When me and [former teammate Scott Pye] were working, we were definitely going down our own individual paths, and it wasn’t working as well as it should. But now we’ve got technical direction from Ludo, he’s bringing everyone together and that’s working well for both cars."
Interview by David Malsher