David Coulthard has agreed with former Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team-mate Mark Webber that the raft of new technical and aerodynamic regulations sweeping the top flight in 2009 in the name of cost-cutting and spicing up the spectacle may actually do very little to improve the show.

The return of slick tyres, advent of KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) technology and dramatically different front and rear wings have all been designed to generate greater overtaking and help to create a more level playing field between the sport's traditional haves and have-nots.

Webber has already expressed his view that fans may perceive little difference in the actual quality of the racing in F1's brave new dawn [see separate story - click here], and now Coulthard believes little is likely to change in the general pecking order either. Moreover, the 37-year-old warned that - less than three months away from the season start Down Under in Melbourne - another team could yet follow Honda out of the exit door.

"It's always a danger because they are public companies," the experienced Scot - the fourth most successful driver in Formula 1 history - told Crash.net Radio. "They need to return a profit or be able to justify the spending through difficult times. If Formula 1 is pricing itself at such a level that it's a question of a new product range or a Formula 1 marketing campaign, then you're going to go with the product range.

"They needed sweeping changes to try and make it affordable. That isn't an issue for the top teams, but the smaller teams and obviously all of the manufacturers that have invested in Formula 1 are taking a hit right now. If it is a level playing field then it shouldn't make any difference, in terms of the competitiveness between the teams. It will just mean it's more affordable.

"There are always the best teams and the slowest teams, and that's not going to change. It's the same in the Premiership and any type of sport that you want to call."

Despite having hung up his own helmet at the end of 246 grands prix that yielded 13 victories, 62 podium finishes and no fewer than 535 points, Coulthard admits that he will remain 'fairly busy' this year with his ongoing consultancy and part-time testing role for Red Bull, as well as his new commentating duties for the BBC. Enjoying the opportunity to spend time with his newborn son Dayton, he is not missing the competitive rush, he insists - not yet, at least.

"This was always the off-season anyway," the Twynholm-born star explained. "I guess it will be March, when it comes round to racing again, when it will take hold.

"Being a dad is fantastic, but very draining at the same time. I haven't slept in weeks, so I just can't imagine what it's like to be the mum!"

Coulthard admitted that he is also eager to follow the progress made by his replacement Sebastian Vettel - who, aged just 21 years and 74 days, became F1's youngest-ever winner when he superbly triumphed in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza back in September - and he is adamant that Webber's leg-breaking mountain-biking accident during his annual charity Pure Tasmania outdoor adventure challenge before Christmas will not impact negatively upon the Aussie's season.

"Sebastian is a great young driver," he enthused, "and I'm looking forward to observing from the outside just what that talent is.

"The new car wasn't due to run until February anyway, so yes Mark will miss out on a little bit of stuff in January, but honestly, he's quality, so he won't have a problem getting back up-to-speed when he drives the car in February."

"If it was the left leg, where you really need the strength for braking, I would be a lot more concerned," Coulthard added, speaking to itv.com, "but the right leg isn't a big deal.

"I don't see it as a set back at all. If anything, Mark will use the time - because he'll be less mobile - to be more efficient and focus on the year ahead."

by Russell Atkins



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