Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler BlackJack’sBriefs
Such a list is not easy to compile, and it is even harder to be objective.
The way I reduced 830 F1 drivers to 20 is detailed in Part I. I wanted twenty top drivers (top No.2’s who might have been a team leader.) who had proved their ability to win – not drivers who showed talent but were unable to realise their potential, including drivers whose career was brought to an untimely end, for whatever reason.
David Coulthard, MBE
. . . was born in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, in 1971, and is the second most experienced driver on this list, with 246 F1 GP race starts, to Barrichello’s record of 322. His F1 driving career spanned 1994-2008.
Coulthard raced karts from the age of 11, for six years, entered FF in 1989, and was awarded the first McLaren/Autosport Young Driver of the Year, winning a McLaren test. An accident at Spa brought his 1990 season to a premature close but in 1991 he won the F3 Marlboro Masters and was awarded the Autosport National Driver of the Year.
In 1992 he finished ninth in the F3000 series, and third in 1993, when he also joined Williams as test-driver, a place he also held for 1994. After Senna’s death Coulthard was promoted to full-time driver for eight of the remaining races, with Mansell also standing in when his IndyCar commitments allowed – at the request of Renault, who wanted a ‘name’. Mansell was allegedly paid £900,000(Sterling) per race – Hill’s fee was 300,000 for the entire season…
It also seems Bernie was concerned that TV viewing figures were declining (so not such a new problem, then…) and he wanted at least one World Champion on the grid. In recent years there have been several ex-champions on the grids… and the figures are still declining… Makes one wonder whether the problem is somewhere else entirely…
Coulthard retired from three of these races but finished in the points in the other five, including second to Hill in Portugal, where he also recorded the fastest lap – as also in Germany – to finish 8th in the Championship.
In 1995 Coulthard had intended to move to McLaren, with (IndyCar Champion) Mansell returning to F1 at Williams for another try at the crown… But Sir Frank decided he wanted to retain Coulthard, causing the FIA to rule that Williams had first call on Coulthard’s services, and leaving Nigel a bit nonplussed…
The 1990’s was the era when racing cars used to suffer retirements, sometimes from drivers spinning off/crashing out, but more frequently by cars being tested to their limits, and occasionally breaking down. Nowadays, with all our enforced ersatz regulations, mechanical features are all competing below their potential limits, nothing breaks, and the racing is relatively boring… TV figures continue to drop, circuit attendance has dipped to levels where TV fees are required to finance events, but TV revenues are dropping, along with the viewing figures… People are becoming bored with F1 (as, apparently also with IndyCars…) and, ultimately, either nobody knows why, or the authorities are too inept to offer solutions. DRS and ‘double-points’ are too simplistic, even too inane, to solve anything. For all that the FIA comprehends, and for all Bernie’s Boys even care, we might just as well blame astrology… In fact it’s doubtful whether a good astrologer would actually do any worse.
However… Coulthard did much better and, in his first full F1 season, he took one win, ahead of Schumacher and Hill, seven further podiums, five(5) pole positions (four consecutive), and two fastest laps, never finishing below 4th… to claim 3rd place in the Championship… On its own, this is almost enough to justify him a place on this list.
In 1995 McLaren had been firmly in the mid-field, along with Ligier, Jordan, and Sauber and, in 1996 little changed. Coulthard finally joined Mika Hakkinen at McLaren and, while Hill and Williams pushed themselves back to the front, taking both Championships, the McLaren drivers floundered, with just six podiums between them for their efforts.
Schumacher, and key Benetton figures had already moved to Ferrari and, at the end of the season, Hill and Newey departed Williams… and both teams started the slide to the midfield… leaving Ferrari and McLaren to reap the benefits. I can’t help wondering if the generally affable Frank can be a bit of a Tartar in private… Check out Senna’s comments to Berger…
This was one more of those rather disreputable years which many tend to forget, as McLaren started to reassert themselves, and as Coulthard out-performed teammate Hakkinen to place 3rd in the Championship – after Schumacher had been disqualified from the Championship, having apparently attempted to turn F1 into a second- rate NASCAR event when he tried to punt Villeneuve out of the race (shades of 1994 and Hill…), to prevent the latter being crowned Champion.
Allegations about this, and other matters at Jerez, went on for months afterwards, and repercussions continued for over a decade…
Coulthard won in Australia and managed to record fastest lap in Canada (and almost won the race), and also took victory in Italy, plus two 2nd places. In the first eight events Coulthard out-qualified Hakkinen 6:2, but the latter turned it around and ended the season ahead, with 11:6. When they both finished Hakkinen won, 3:2, and also won the final race. It had been a slow and up-hill battle for Hakkinen but he had now reached the top, and would take the Championship in 1998 and 1999.
McLaren were now on top (or was it Newey…?) and, with Ferrari, were head and shoulders ahead of the pack, so far indeed that the midfield runners (Williams, Jordan and Benetton) were really no better than the back markers. McLaren won nine of the sixteen races but Coulthard only took one of them. Hakkinen took 9 poles, to Coulthard’s 3, and 6 fastest laps, to Coulthard’s 3. In best ‘No.2’ fashion Coulthard finished second to Hakkinen five times… and gained another third place in the Championship.
. . . was much the same, with Coulthard finishing the year in fourth place, as Hakkinen again took the laurels… Coulthard seemed to demurely go about his business, and kept his head, while all around him others seemed to be losing theirs…
Schumacher crashed out of the British GP and seemed oddly reluctant to return, until a rattled Luca diM got him back to help the frantic Eddie Irvine return the Constructors Championship to Ferrari… and perhaps even help Irvine win the Drivers Championship… and, at Sepang, Schumacher dutifully did just that, letting Irvine pass for the win, and taking 2nd himself, relegating Hakkinen to 3rd. Before the race Hakkinen was eight points ahead – afterwards he was four points behind… and Ferrari were now four points ahead of McLaren.
In the final race Hakkinen had to win, and needed Coulthard to keep Irvine out of 2nd spot. Schumacher took pole, with Hakkinen beside him, and Coulthard right behind… while Frentzen had pushed Irvine back to the third row. When the flag fell Hakkinen made a copy-book start and stormed ahead – and stayed there to the end. He could do no more.
Irvine (and Panis) had got the jump on Coulthard (and Frentzen) but David passed Eddie during the first fuel-stops, but later spun into a wall and had to pit for a new nose-cone, returning a lap down in front of Schumacher… and ignored blue flags – allegedly, as the McLarens were able to outpace the Ferraris. Nevertheless, Schumacher took 2nd while Irvine finished 3rd, 90 secs. further back – after Coulthard had retired with hydraulic problems.
Hakkinen won the title, with 76pts. to Irvine’s 74. Although Schumacher was criticised for not wanting Irvine to score the final points to give Ferrari the Constructors Championship (which they took) it was also inferred that he could have been more helpful to Irvine’s own Championship hopes.
There are far too many ‘if/buts’ in considering the outcome of an earlier return from Schumacher (this writer feels there is more likelihood Schumacher would have simply beaten Irvine to second place) but the final event is much easier to evaluate.
For Schumacher to have ‘lost’ 90 secs., to hand Irvine 2nd place, would have been ‘difficult’ enough but… Irvine was being hotly chased by Frentzen and Ralf Schmacher and the whole thing could have gone horribly wrong, and lost Ferrari the Constructors Championship… And even if Irvine had managed to claim 2nd spot, with both drivers finishing on 76pts, Hakkinen would still have taken the title, with five victories to Irvine’s four… Incidentally both drivers had scored two 2nd places, and also three 3rd places each. It was a close call. Live with it.
Coulthard remained with McLaren, and Hakkinen, and again finished 3rd in the Championship, this time right behind Hakkinen, who lost his crown to Schmacher. However Coulthard was a clear member of a three-way battle for supremacy. Neither McLaren driver scored in the first two races, allowing Schumacher (and his new supporter, Rubens) to romp away, but they fought back to split the Ferrari drivers at the end of the year. Coulthard took two poles, three fastest laps, and three wins – in Britain, Monaco and France… ‘Not bad for a No.2’… (©Mark Webber)
With the arrival in F1 of newcomers, Alonso and Raikkonen, plus former CART champion, Montoya, Coulthard had reached the point where he needed to make his Championship challenge stick, and quick… or he would be in trouble. After the obligatory three-year opening (according to my theory) of his career he had placed 3rd, 7th and 3rd… and followed this with a further three years placed 3rd, 4th, and 3rd… but, although he was able to trounce Hakkinen in 2001 he was unable to deal with the virtually invincible Schumacher… who had twice as many points as Coulthard… who had twice as many as Hakkinen.
At this time nobody could berate Coulthard for ‘only’ finishing 2nd – ‘Best of the Rest’ was not an insult against such fearsome competition… and David remained with McLaren for a further three years (nine in total). finishing 5th, 7th, and 10th in the Championship.
Along with new teammate, Raikkenen, the McLaren drivers were totally trounced by the Ferrari pair in 2002, and also by the resurgent Williams duo.
In 2003 Coulthard had slipped behind Montoya, Ralf, and Alonso, in the Championship, and Button and Webber were close behind. In 2004 Button passed him, as did Jarno Trulli and even Takumo Sato… Then McLaren announced they had signed Montoya to partner Raikkonen and that was it…
. . . well, almost… Ford decided that throwing money at the Stewart team, and even changing its name to Jaguar, had been a waste of said money and sold out to (Austrian) Red Bull, who decided to cash in on Coulthard’s considerable experience (having failed to acquire Austrian, Berger), signing him to partner (Austrian) Christian Klien, who had shown promise in the 2004 Jaguar, and also Vitantonio Liuzzi… but the latter was dropped mid- season.
Ten teams entered twenty cars throughout the year, and all teams scored points, although Minardi only did so by finishing the farcical US GP where seven teams boycotted the event. Only seventeen drivers completed a full season, and all scored points. Oh, and David Coulthard scored 24pts. and finished 12th in the Championship.
In their second season Red Bull swapped their Cosworth engines for Ferrari ‘mills’ and later in the season opted for Renault power for 2007, and also signed up Newey to pen their 2007 car. Coulthard and Klien continued as before, although the latter was dropped before the end of the season.
Minardi was bought by Toro Rosso, BAR by Honda, Jordan by MF1 (which quickly became Spyker, before even more quickly disappearing altogether… and finally resurfacing as Force India…!), Sauber was taken over by BMW… and Super Aguri put in an appearance.
Apart from Coulthard’s one podium place (Red Bull’s first) Red Bull scored half as many points as in their first season while hanging on th 7th place overall… with Coulthard down to 13th.
This was the year when Red Bull started to exert their ‘money-muscle’ – Newey came up with the RB3, and Christian Horner added the promise of Webber to Coulthard’s extensive experience… but it still wasn’t a great year for them, although they dragged themselves to 5th place in the Championship… In the background McLaren were having sleepless nights over ‘Spygate’…
2008 marked Coulthard’s final podium finish, in his final season in F1, but he only managed 16th overall, whereas Webber managed 11th. Coulthard announced his retirement at the British GP and brought his 15-year F1 career to a close, having had long spells at just three teams: Williams (2); McLaren(9); and Red Bull (4). He won 13 races, had 49 further podiums, 18 fastest laps, and 12 poles… finishing once in 2nd place in the Championship, plus four 3rd places, after 246 race-starts, over a seven-year period. Never winning the World Championship makes him an ideal candidate for this list.
At the beginning of 2008 Coulthard tangled with Massa which left Coulthard furious: “I know I screwed up the same way with Alex (Wurz) last year, [but I] took full responsibility for it, and I would expect Felipe to do the same. If he doesn’t, I’m going to kick three colours of shit out of the little bastard.” That doesn’t sound like ‘our’ David… but at least his competitive spirit was undimmed after so long in the sport.
After clashing with Montoya at the 2006 British Grand Prix: “I wouldn’t waste my time by going to see Juan Pablo. It would be like going to a zoo and trying to communicate with a chimpanzee.”
About the stewards who fined him for missing the drivers parade: “I said, ‘You’ve fined me 4,000 Euros, I’ve done 230-odd grands prix and never missed one except for Malaysia where I was ill and in the medical centre. So that’s 4,000 Euros out of my children’s inheritance!’ There was no reaction from them. No smile or anything. So I then said to them ‘Okay, let’s cut it to 2000 Euros if I pay in cash.’ Still no reaction. So I then asked Alan Donnelly if he could translate, because that is somewhat funny in English. But he said it was only funny in Scottish. I’ve told Karen, no shopping and next week, no food on the table. We’ll take the pain together!”
“I don’t agree with financial penalties. That goes against my religion.”
Coulthard also suffered perhaps more than his fair share of being punted into retirement on several opening laps, causing him to write on his blog, before the Brazilian GP: “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.” On the second corner of the first lap Nico Rosberg hit him from behind, spinning him into the path of the other Williams of Kazuki Nakajima… and he retired on the spot.
In 2009 Coulthard joined the BBC as a F1 pundit, and occasional commentator, and continues to give his views to date. He was recently outspoken about the comments of some Australians who objected to the money being ‘squandered’ for the GP in Melbourne: “For the one week of inconvenience it may cause some local people, then I think they shouldn’t be so selfish quite frankly, They should think of the greater good, what it does for the local economy, what it does to inspire local children to be designers or engineers or whatever . . . You don’t inspire people by not giving them a taste of what is in the world.
“I think you have to be tolerant in this world and . . . for that one week, the people who don’t like the sport [should] just tolerate the people who do. It’s a truly international event.”
Coulthard raced in the DTM for three years (2010-2012), and lives in Monaco, although he has other homes, and owns several hotels.
to be continued, tomorrow…
10th – Felipe Massa
11th – Mark Webber
12th – Tony Brooks
13th – Rene Arnoux
14th – Rubens Barrichello
15th – Dan Gurney
16th – Clay Regazzoni
17th – Didier Pironi
18th – Richie Ginther
19th – Francois Cevert
20th – Peter Collins