Interview: David Coulthard
David Coulthard had a 15-year Grand Prix career with Williams, McLaren and Red Bull Racing, and is now a commentator for BBC TV’s F1 coverage that is shown worldwide. The Scot won 13 Grands Prix including two at Monaco – where he now lives – and other landmark races at Silverstone and Monza. He returned to racing in the DTM in 2010, continuing his relationship with Mercedes, as well as remaining with Red Bull. Here, he tackled our questions, in the style and humour you would expect….
Have you ever searched yourself on Youtube?
Yep! I’ve not done it often, but there is random stuff on there. Spins and wins and everything, but there’s nothing too embarrassing…
What was your most satisfying race, whether you won or not?
I would say Macau in Formula 3 because it’s just such a great challenge and an innocent era of racing, but if I chose Formula 1 I would say Monaco as it’s such a crazy challenge.
What was the first racecar you bought with your own money?
Never!! I’ve probably bought only three or four cars in my entire life.
Who was your fiercest rival and why?
The longest rival I have had is Rubens (Barrichello) because from Opel Lotus in 1990 right through, our careers ran in parallel. F3, F3000, F1. But some of the guys in Formula Ford – Bernard Dolan, Nico Palhares, and some older guys who had been doing Formula Ford for years, like Dave Coyne.
Coulthard in the beautiful 1995 Williams Renault FW17
Which racing car would you most like to own?
The Williams, the last few Red Bulls. Maybe one of the old classic Formula 1 cars from the 1970s or ’80s. They were good looking cars.
Was racing better then or now?
I think you always look back on your childhood memories, and think it was incredible and all the rest of it. But in reality it probably isn’t any different to how it is now in terms of the quality of the engineering and technology they had available to them at that time. And there was probably a much bigger spread from the front of the grid to the back of the grid. The difference would have been access to the paddock, and the way the drivers traveled, but in the way of what has changed most is not just engineering, it’s the media, and access. It has become easier to get information out there. I guess it’s closed down – the ability to differentiate between work time and play time.
Who is the greatest driver of all time?
Arguably Ayrton Senna, but…. We can argue!
What was your closest shave or “holy shit” moment?
The plane crash…!
Read what David said about the crash to Autosport.com back in 2000
But racing-wise, the ‘holy shit’ moment was at Spa when everyone was piling into me.
What is your favourite racing livery or logo?
Ferrari cars are instantly recognisable. Marlboro McLaren too… Elf Tyrrell, John Player Special – there are so many great colour schemes from the past, and in 20 years time people will look back at the Red Bull and love that too.
Which driver, dead or alive would you most like to have dinner with?
In terms of motosport, any of the greats to find out what made them tick.
Who was the best driver you saw, who didn’t make it to the big time?
Man, there are so many drivers that didn’t make it to Formula 1, it’s difficult to single out one person. But for sure for everyone that does get there, there are 10 or 20 from the same era that had the skills, but never had the opportunity.
What was the first race you saw in person, and how old were you?
The first Formula 1 race I saw in person was the 1990, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, as I was in the Opel Lotus support race that did the European Grands Prix, and that was a great experience. I would say that my first motor race, apart from karting, would have been at Ingliston, Edinburgh in Scotland.
Is there an event you would like to race in?
Daytona, Indianapolis. I’ll never do Indy, but up until Piquet had his crash in ’92 I was thinking about it. I remember watching it on the TV and saw the crash, and thinking ‘if a three-time F1 World Champion goes there and does that, and has that sort of thing happen to him….’
Really?? That’s interesting. After that, I didn’t fancy Indy.
What’s been the best post-race party?
Ahh… There have been so many great, great parties. At the British Grand Prix we used to have a lot of fun at the motorhome that would go on until… Well whenever! In Montreal we had some amazing parties with Guy Laliberté CEO of Cirque du Soleil. Brazil too was fantastic. It’s always good when you have a reason to celebrate.
Would you call yourself a fan of race history?
Yes I think I am. I wouldn’t be able to give you the name of every World Champion since 1950, but I’d have a stab at it from the early ’70s right through. I wouldn’t get it right, but yes I like motorsport, the industry and the history.
Was there ever a race you were in and suddenly realised you were racing against a legend or hero? Or a ‘How did I get here’ moment?
Not in a race. My ‘How did I get here’ moment was sitting in the Williams at Imola in 1993 as test driver, and Alain Prost was in the other car testing, and I remember looking over at a guy I really admired and thinking ‘God, it doesn’t get any better than this. I’m testing for my hero’.
Have you ever complained about something wrong that was written about you?
Oh yes! I remember Alan Henry in a Top Ten article writing “David has an amazing ability to describe an incident with his car as if someone else was driving it at the time”! I thought that was bit unfair because I always have a point of view, and it may not be how someone else sees it. So fundamentally you have two different views straight away. I always felt I tried to be open, straightforward and honest with the media, as growing up dealing with media was just another job, whether you are media or a mechanic, or you as the driver. But just like drivers, as you know as a journalist, we were just all growing up together in our jobs within motorsport.
What changes when you get more in the public eye, is that you have to take into account there are a lot of other people in the media that you don’t have relationships with – they will just say as they see. Inevitably when you have friendships you will give it a bit more thought. That doesn’t mean that you won’t address the subject, but maybe a bit more balanced than shooting from the hip.
So now that you are now TV media, have you had any complaints?
I’ve not had… yet! No. I’m sure there might be times when they listen to what I say and they think ‘well that’s not how it was’. I have absolutely no problem if they want to come up and say ‘I don’t agree with your take on that’, in the same way there have been some stewards decisions I haven’t necessarily agreed with. That doesn’t mean they are wrong, anymore than I was wrong. It was the decision they made that day. I’m sure football referees reflect on some of the matches and think ‘maybe I blew the whistle a bit too early.’
At the end of the day you have to make a decision. TV, newspapers, magazines, all have deadlines that you have to hit – that’s not an option. It’s live TV, you’ve got to say something. And yes I do reflect and think I got that wrong. But I’d rather have an opinion, be wrong and corrected than not say anything.
Follow David Coulthard on twitter @therealdcf1
By Andy Hallbery follow me on twitter @Hallbean
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