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The Five Best Drives of David Coulthard

Andrew Szekler writes about the excitement of Formula One racing.

David Coulthard was one of the top drivers of F1 during the second half of the 1990s and the early part of the 2000s. The Scot spent one and a half-season at Williams in 1994-95 and then moved to McLaren, where he drove between 1996 and 2004. Unfortunately for him, he was unable to string together a consistent enough season to win a world championship against the likes of Michael Schumacher or his teammate Mika Hakkinen, but Coulthard’s services were not maintained at top teams for over a decade either. In his day, he looked as fast as if not faster than anyone, and put in some memorable drives.

1998 Austrian GP

McLaren had an absolute rocket of a car at the beginning of the 1998 season. At first, it seemed like the fight for the world championship will be between Hakkinen and Coulthard. The quick recovery of Ferrari and Goodyear allowed Michael Schumacher to mount a challenge, and as the season progressed the fight for the championship turned into a duel between Hakkinen and Schumacher.

Coulthard somewhat faded into the background, but occasionally he still put in some superb drives. One such occasion was the Austrian GP.

Qualifying was wet, so the order of the grid was a very mixed one, with an unlikely pole man, Giancarlo Fisichella. Hakkinen and Schumacher were high up the grid on third and fourth, but Coulthard was down on 14th. He instantly got tangled in an accident after the start and dropped back to last.

Still, his bad luck did not dishearten him and he put in a very spirited drive to climb up to the second position by the end of the race. Going to second place from last place, even if we consider that he was driving the fastest car on the grid, was a mighty effort.

1997 Canadian GP

Coulthard started the 1997 season with a victory in Australia, but after a superb weekend in Melbourne, the form of Coulthard and McLaren tailed off somewhat.

With the Bridgestone's entry into F1 in 1997, the tyre compounds became softer, and this change sometimes threw teams off balance. One notable example of this was the Spanish GP, where teams struggled with high tyre degradation.

Another good example of this was the Canadian GP. Polesitter Michael Schumacher was somewhat struggling and unable to break away from his immediate followers. His closest rival Villeneuve later commented that Schumacher was murdering his tyres, but he made a mistake and crashed out, so he was unable to capitalise. There was another man, however, who did not make mistakes. David Coulthard was having a superb race up until his second pit stop and was looking good to take the win from Schumacher when a clutch problem destroyed his race and put him out of contention.

It was terrible luck for him, as he was doing a faultless job all through the race and would have been a worthy winner.

2002 Monaco GP

The 2002 season was absolutely dominated by Ferrari and Michael Schumacher. The other teams seemed like they could challenge Schumacher and Ferrari in the first three races of the season, but once the new Ferrari was unveiled in the San Marino GP nobody stood a chance. Schumacher and Ferrari steamrolled the field in the following races.

Things looked a bit different in the Monaco GP. Montoya was able to snatch pole position with a superb lap. Alongside Montoya was David Coulthard, who also managed to edge Schumacher in the qualifying session.

Coulthard passed Montoya at the start to take the lead and looked comfortable leading the race at the early stages of the race. Coulthard was slightly faster than Montoya, who was clearly holding up Schumacher. Schumacher was the first of the lead drivers to jump into the pits and started to set very fast times after his stop, forcing Coulthard to cover him by making his own stop. The Scot managed to emerge just ahead of Schumacher and maintained his lead for the rest of the race, scoring his second victory in Monte Carlo.

2001 Brazilian GP

Michael Schumacher and Ferrari had a superb start to the 2001 season. Schumacher looked dominant and took two poles and two wins. His great rival Hakkinen was unlucky in Australia and looked off form in Malaysia.

Schumacher continued his good form in Brazil by taking pole position from his brother and Hakkinen.

Hakkinen’s wretched luck continued when he remained stuck on the grid after the start. Hakkinen’s struck car brought out the SC, which bunched up the field. Montoya passed Schumacher at the restart to take the lead. The move completely destroyed Schumacher’s strategy, who was stuck behind the 1 stopping Montoya.

Montoya looked securely in the lead from Coulthard when he was hit by a backmarker and forced him to retire. Coulthard made his stop shortly afterwards and rejoined the race in the lead. With his stops done, while Schumacher still had to make one Coulthard looked secure for an easy victory.

However, rain came to the rescue of Schumacher, who put on the rain tyres when he made his second fuel stop. Coulthard gambled on staying out, but the gamble failed and dropped him behind Schumacher when he finally made his stop. Nonetheless, the bad gamble did not dishearten the McLaren driver, he closed up on Schumacher and overtook him for the win. Coulthard’s win meant that he closed in on Schumacher who was topping the driver’s standings and it very much looked like the title fight was on.

2000 French GP

The 2000 season was marked by the intense rivalry of Ferrari and McLaren for the drivers and contructor’s title. Ferrari started the season much better than their rivals, who were troubled by reliability issues.

Coming into the French GP Michael Schumacher was comfortably leading the standings from the two McLaren drivers. He also qualified on pole position from David Coulthard, while Mika Hakkinen seemed to be somewhat off form.

Ferrari had a dream start to the race when Barrichello passed Coulthard for second position after the lights went off. Aftert lap 1 the order was Schumacher, Barrichello, Coulthard and Hakkinen. Schumacher started to pull away from Barrichello, who was closely followed by the McLarens.

Coulthard was harrying Barrichello and eventually succeeded in passing the Ferrari man. Once in clear air Coulthard started to close the gap to Schumacher and eventually arrived to the gearbox of the leading Ferrari.

The two had a fierce battle and Schumacher defended aggressively. A frustrated Coulthard even showed his rival the middle finger once. Coulthard eventually got by Schumacher on lap 40 and pulled away from the German, who came under pressure from Coulthard’s teammate Hakkinen.

With the last stops out of the way, the Scot motored away to score a comfortable win, and a very impressive one at that, because it is not often that the winner has to pass the two cars in front of him for the win.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Andrew Szekler