Any hopes that David Coulthard might have had of taking advantage of the absence of Mika Hakkinen to become McLaren’s main challenge to Michael Schumacher were dashed even before the start of the season.
There was never a chance, for the McLaren-Mercedes MP4-17 was not a match for the Ferrari F2002.
In any case, Coulthard had other things to worry about – namely an increasingly impressive new Finnish team-mate.
Coulthard had the worst combination of things in 2002 – a car that tended towards a nervous rear end, and a team-mate who had no problem with that.
The Scot does not like a nervous car, and has always struggled when he has had one, so in fact he did a very good job in 2002.
Raikkonen had the edge in qualifying – never Coulthard’s greatest strength – but they were pretty evenly matched in races.
And Coulthard took a superb victory in Monaco, with a controlled drive under intense pressure from Schumacher most of the way.
That was the only time anyone beat the dominant F2002 all year, and it provided a major confidence boost for Coulthard in a season in which Raikkonen was mounting a serious challenge.
For the future, though, he faces the same old problem.
If he does not establish supremacy over Raikkonen early on in 2003, then the team may start to turn to the younger man for their lead, just as they did with Hakkinen.
Once they have that thought in their heads, Coulthard’s chances of ever being champion – no matter how good the McLaren might be – are slim indeed.