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David Coulthard - The Scottish Legend

Hitesh Dash
834   //    28 Mar 2012, 21:53 IST

27th March 1971 – The Sun rising on the Scottish soil cast its rays to one more person, who was to become a racing hero in the future days to come  - David Marshall Coulthard.

David Coulthard, mostly called as DC, was born in a small town of Twynholm, Scotland. His résumé boasts of winning a total of 13 Grand Prix in his career in the world of Formula One that lasted 15 glorious years. Overall, his best performance came in 2001, when he fininshed 2nd in the drivers’ championships on 65 points with 7 time world champion Michael Schumacher finishing above him on 123 points. In that glorious season, Coulthard won only 2 races – The Austrian Grand Prix and the Brazilian Grand Prix, finished 2nd at San Marino, Australia and Belgium and ended on 3rd place in as many as 5 races – the Malaysian, European, Hungarian, USA and Japanese Grand Prix.

Coulthard began his racing career prior to Formula 1 in carting as soon as he was eligible to go for it – at the age of 11. He continued racing for Karts for 6 consecutive years and moved south in the process, once he had started to win local championships.  The Rowrah, in Cumbria, became his favourite which he tagged as his home circuit. This was the track that gave him the Cumbria Kart Racing Club championship in 1985 when he was 14 years of age. In the year 1989, Coulthard started racing in Formula Ford, making him worthy of winning the first ever McLaren Young Driver of the Year award. Unfortunately, a broken leg at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps put an abrupt end to his year 1990 racing season, but there was some positive news, the fact that by the end of that year he was already testing for McLaren. He returned the following year, in 1991 to win the Marlboro Masters race at Zandvoort and the Macau Grand Prix. In the next year, he finished ninth in the Formula 3000 series. The following year he improved to third overall which demarked the end of his pre-Formula 1 career.

David Coulthard's First ever Go-Kart

At the dawn of the 1993 Formula One season, Coulthard signed for Williams- Renault as a test driver. He retained his role the following year until, after the ill-fated Ayrton Senna‘s death at Imola, after which he was brought in to partner British driver – Damon Hill for the Spanish Grand Prix in the next round. In eight of the remaining races, that season he drove the second car. However, he was replaced by Nigel Mansell, who drove at Magny-Cours and at the last three races of the season. Despite fastest laps at the German and Portuguese Grand Prix, Coulthard finished on the podium only once when he finished second at Estoril. Coulthard had intended to race for McLaren in 1995 but, in the month of December 1994, the FIA Contract Recognition Board ruled that Williams-Renault is only entitled to the services of Mr. David Coulthard for the 1995 FIA Formula One World Championship season.

David Coulthard in Williams-Renault

The world was breathless after witnessing a stunning Coulthard’s first victory at the 1995 Portuguese Grand Prix. Despite never finishing below fourth place, and scoring five pole positions (four of which he scored consecutively), his eight retirements were mainly due to bad luck and some unforced errors tarnished his season. By July of that year, Coulthard had already signed for McLaren, with whom he would drive alongside Mika Häkkinen. The world knew a new Formula One legend has been born and is eagerly waiting to take centre-stage.

That marked the dawn of a new era in Formula One. During the 1996 season, McLaren cars finished on the podium only on five times, as the Mercedes-powered cars were simply not fast enough in those days. Coulthard’s car retired from races on seven such occasions. He led at Imola and lost out to Olivier Panis at Monaco due to lack of sheer pace.


In his second year with McLaren, Coulthard finished the 1997 Drivers’ Championship in third place (following that in-famous Schumacher’s disqualification), tied on points with Jean Alesi. He had won the Australian and Italian Grands Prix as well as even recording the fastest lap at the race in Montréal. He had been leading in Canada, but was delayed for over a lap by a clutch problem during his second pit stop which ruined the race for him. However, several minutes later Panis crashed, causing the race to be stopped. Had Coulthard’s car not stalled, victory would certainly have been to his name. At the last race of that season in Jerez, Coulthard was obliged by team orders to concede second place to Häkkinen with three laps to go before they (the team orders) were banned. Villeneuve needed to finish the race to win that year’s drivers’ championship in a car which was underperforming following the lap 48 collision with Schumacher. He gave way to the two McLarens on the final lap, with Coulthard reported to be not bubbling with joy after the event. In 1998, McLaren cars won nine of the races, but Coulthard’s only victory of the season was at the San Marino race. He finished second behind his team-mate five times that season.

David Coulthard in McLaren F1

Once again in 1999, bad luck and unreliability were to be blamed for Coulthard finishing the season only in fourth place, with two wins among his six podium finishes. In 2000, he was involved in a tight battle for the drivers’ championship with Schumacher and Häkkinen, but eventually fell out of contention into a third place finish. In 2001, he finished in second place, but with barely half the points (65) tallied by runaway winner Schumacher (123).

Coulthard finished 2001 season in 2nd place behind Schumacher

Coulthard extended his contract with McLaren in 2002 but his subsequent years with the team till 2004, were disappointing as well, as he was regularly out-paced by younger teammate Kimi. In 2003 the FIA introduced the single-lap qualifying format. Since his Formula Three days, Coulthard had the reputation of being a poor qualifier. He openly admitted that he did not like the format and was a vocal opponent of it. With the announcement that Juan Pablo Montoya was to join McLaren in 2005 alongside Räikkönen, 2004 was to be Coulthard’s last year with the team. A poor tenth place finish in the final 2004 standings had not helped Coulthard’s cause for being a strong competitor in 2005 either.

Coulthard after signing for Red bull teaming mark Webber

In 2005, Red Bull Racing signed him for that season. He was teamed with the inexperienced Christian Klien and Vitantonio Liuzzi. Coulthard’s contract at Red Bull Racing was also extended prior to the 2005 British Grand Prix, prolonging his Formula One career to at least the end of 2006, where he continued at Red Bull, partnered again with Christian Klien. On the day after the Hungarian Grand Prix where Coulthard finished 5th, it was announced the he had extended his contract with Red Bull Racing for 2007 and would be teamed up with Mark Webber.

Coulthard after signing for Red bull

Coulthard is as of November 2011 the highest-scoring British driver ever with 535 points, beating Nigel Mansell’s previous record of 482 points. At the 2006 Spanish Grand Prix he also became the 8th member of Formula One’s “200 Club joining Riccardo Patrese, Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello, Gerhard Berger, Andrea de Cesaris, Nelson Piquet and Jean Alesi in the list of drivers to have started 200 Grands Prix. In the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix, Coulthard scored his first podium finish with Red Bull Racing, his best result with the team and also the team’s first podium finish. After a slow start to the 2007 season, Coulthard delivered two strong drives at the Bahrain Grand Prix and the Spanish Grand Prix where he picked up the team’s first points of the season. On 6 July 2007, Red Bull Racing announced that Coulthard’s contract had been extended to the end of 2008. At the second race in Malaysia, Coulthard suffered a bad suspension failure which saw his Red Bull team investigated for car safety. Although cleared to drive, the lack of testing time had a negative impact on his race performance and he managed only a 9th place finish. Despite a series of poor performances over the course of the 2008 season, he came back and managed to secure a hard-fought 3rd place at the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix, the 62nd podium finish of his Formula One career.

Before the 2008 British Grand Prix, Coulthard announced that he would retire at the end of the season, but would remain at Red Bull as a consultant. He retired on the first lap after colliding with Sebastian Vettel, the driver who would replace him at Red Bull in 2009, in his last British Grand Prix. For Coulthard’s final race, he competed in a car with a one-off livery promoting the charity “Wings for Life”. In the event, Coulthard retired in the second corner on the first lap after he was hit from behind by Nakajima in the Williams. In his final website blog before the race, Coulthard said,

I was thinking of asking the drivers to keep well clear of me into turn 1 to give me a better chance of finishing my last GP but I know all too well that when the lights go out racing instincts take over.

At the 2008 Race of Champions, Coulthard made the final only to lose out to Sébastien Loeb. He made the quarter-finals in both 2009 and in 2011, his sixth participation in the end-of-season competition. In 2010, Coulthard competed in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters, driving a 2008-spec Mercedes C-Class run by Mücke Motorsport. It was announced on April 2011 that Coulthard would again race the C-Class for Mücke Motorsport in the DTM, with Ralf Schumacher as his team-mate. He was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours.

Hitesh Dash
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