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Coulthard makes solid start at Red Bull

Alan Baldwin | December 09, 2004 11:01 IST

David Coulthard moved a significant step closer to staying in Formula One when he started a three-day test with the Red Bull Racing team in southern Spain on Wednesday.

The team said the 33-year-old Briton, out of a job after being replaced at McLaren by Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, did 62 laps of the Jerez track in this year's Jaguar R5 car with a best time of one minute 18.079 seconds.

Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz, the Red Bull founder who has made his fortune from the energy drink, bought the Jaguar team from Ford last month.

Coulthard was quicker than Austrian Christian Klien's 1:18.631 in an R5C development car and Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi's best of 1:19.419.

McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa was quickest in 1:15.837.

Although the weather was fine, conditions were different for all three would-be Red Bull drivers with Coulthard running all day while Klien handed over to Liuzzi at lunchtime.

"I am pleased to have the opportunity to join the team this week and am really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of an F1 car," said Coulthard, who arrived in Jerez on Tuesday evening after a seat fitting, before the test.

The Scot, under contract to McLaren and their sponsors until the end of the year, drove in unbranded overalls and helmet.

BEST CHANCE

Red Bull represent Coulthard's best chance of staying in the sport after a decade with Williams and McLaren.

He has won 13 Grands Prix, more than any other active driver apart from Ferrari's world champion Michael Schumacher who won that many last season alone, and finished overall runner-up to the German in 2001.

Liuzzi, this year's runaway winner in the junior Formula 3000 series, has impressed the team with his speed but Mateschitz has expressed reservations about running two inexperienced drivers together.

Klien drove for Jaguar this year and is expected to be given a second chance.

Coulthard sounded confident on Saturday that his future would be sorted soon.

"I'm going to be on the grid in Formula One and we just need to put everything in order before making the announcement," he told Eurosport television at a 'Race of Champions' in Paris.

Mateschitz had singled out Coulthard and Nick Heidfeld as the two best experienced drivers available but the latter has now become a strong contender to partner Australian Mark Webber at BMW-powered Williams.

Williams have called the German back for a second week of testing at Jerez after some impressive driving in wet conditions which may have given him the edge over Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia, his rival for the race drive.

Red Bull sources said Heidfeld had a standing offer to test for them but had not followed it up, an indication that he saw his future elsewhere.


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