His career started, and ended with Senna. Debuting in Formula One in place of the late Ayrton Senna at Williams, and ending his Formula One career by crashing out at the ‘Senna S’ turn at Interlagos, David Coulthard is one of Formula One’s all time greats.
Born on March 27th, 1971 in Scotland, Coulthard began racing at an early age, participating in kart races, before moving on to Formula Ford in 1989. He also raced in Formula 3 and Formula 3000 between 1990 and 1993, winning many races, before being offered the role of test driver for the Williams team in 1993. After the tragic death of Ayrton Senna at Imola, in 1994, the team offered the young Scot the race seat alongside Damon Hill at that year’s Spanish Grand Prix. For that season, he was forced to share the Williams seat with Nigel Mansell, but he was eventually given the full time drive in 1995.
1995 would be DC’s first full season in Formula One. He won his first race at the Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril that year. Despite four back-to-back poles and eight podiums, his season was filled with inconsistency, which saw him finish 3rd in the standings. The following season he moved on to McLaren, to race alongside Mika Hakkinen.
Coulthard’s first season at McLaren was anything but impressive. With only two podiums that year, he finished 7th in the standings and was completely outperformed by his team mate. 1997 was better, with the Mercedes powered cars finding some pace, giving the Scotsman two wins and four podiums. He ended the year tied in 3rd place with Jean Alesi, after Michael Schumacher was disqualified from the championship. Over the next four seasons alongside Mika Hakkinen, DC was consistently outperformed by his Finnish team mate, who went on to win back-to-back world championships in 1998 and 1999. DC on the other hand managed a best of 2nd position in the title in 2001.
In 2002, after Mika Hakkinen went on a sabbatical, he became the number one driver alongside another young Finn, Kimi Raikkonen. In a year dominated by the Ferraris, he managed only a 5th in the standings. After that, he again played support driver to Raikkonen, who outclassed him over the two seasons that followed.
At the end of 2004, McLaren announced that they would let DC go, and everyone thought he would retire. But, Red Bull Racing, who felt his experience would be useful to them, gave him a new lease of life, and signed him up for the next two seasons. He however raced on with Red Bull till the end of the 2008 season, after which he retired from the sport. Over the four seasons he spent at Red Bull, he managed two podiums, his best and most famous being the 3rd position in the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix.
Having vast interests in hotels in Monaco and around, and staying on with Red Bull as a consultant, David Coulthard will continue to be a part of the Formula One circus, no matter if its off the racing line rather than on it, but being a strong proponent of driver safety, and known to be a straight shooter and a gentleman of a racing driver, DC will surely be missed in the pits, by not just his peers, but by racing fans around the world.
-Rohhan A Divanji