David Coulthard and Mercedes motorsport director Norbert Haug have both admitted that McLaren will have a tough time competing for the Formula One title next season.

After a disappointing 2002 season, in which Coulthard won just once - in Monaco - it had been hoped that the Woking team could bounce back and at least take the fight to Ferrari next year. However, in separate interviews two of the team's leading lights were pessimistic about it chances.

"I'm not confident about my chances," Coulthard admitted to Britain's Daily Telegraph, "We tried so many modifications that were supposed to bring us wins [in 2002], but which brought us nothing."

The Scot was particularly disappointed with the 2002 Ilmor-built Mercedes V10, which actually turned out to be longer and heavier than its predecessor and had less power than its rivals from Ferrari and BMW. His views are echoed by Mercedes boss Haug who, in turn, reflected similar comments made by McLaren designer Adrian Newey in another interview with the BBC website last month.

The engine setback has prompted Mercedes and Ilmor to come up with an all-new powerplant for 2003, but forces McLaren to soldier on with last year's car for at least the first three races of next season. Having to take this route, despite it proving no handicap to Ferrari in 2002, is part of the reason why neither Coulthard or Haug believe the Scot will be able to challenge for the title in 2003.

"It is not completely realistic to talk about the title for next season," the burly German confessed, "We will have to work very hard over the winter to improve these positions in the coming championship."



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