David Coulthard - What Right to Ridicule?
by Julie GatesArticle is written by and copyright © 1999-2001 Julie Gates and The F1 Rumors Site
What heinous crime has Coulthard committed? Why is it that everywhere we look there are people putting him down left, right and centre? Is he not worthy of peoples' time or respect?
OK, it might be fair to say that Coulthard is not the best driver in Formula One, but this is no reason to disrespect the guy. He still earned a place among the top twenty-two drivers in the world, and has driven some brilliant races during his career. Perhaps those should be mentioned more instead of just reliving the mistakes he has made?
Like the Austrian Grand Prix last year? He finished second after stopping on the first lap for a new nosecone, placing him last! He drove a meteoric race, and overtook rather a lot of cars for someone who supposedly can't overtake - this is the same race where Michael Schumacher's driving mistake put him to the back of the pack, but he failed to catch and pass Coulthard. Then again, there's the San Marino Grand Prix from 1998 - his lone victory that season. He drove another brilliant race, and held Schumacher at bay even though he had to take it relatively easy, due to debris embedded in one of his sidepods!
What we have to remember is that Coulthard is the one who seems to have the majority of the bad luck at McLaren. Like Murray Walker says, "If he [Coulthard] didn't have bad luck, he wouldn't have any luck at all." Whenever we see a McLaren come to a standstill at the side of the track, or sheepishly retire to the pits, it is fair to say it's probably Coulthard who's suffered again.
OK, maybe Coulthard is not the best at carving his way through backmarkers. Maybe he isn't the best at racing in the wet, but he is out there, giving it his all and often showing his many critics wrong. It can't be easy for the Scotsman. He knows that people are watching him and many are waiting for him to fail. Yet he still jumps in his car, week in and week out, and demonstrates that he is worthy of a top seat in F1.
Yes, potentially Coulthard should have performed better than he did last season, but he completed the 1-2 line up with Mika Hakkinen on numerous occasions. All he needed to win more races would be for Mika to have shared some of his appalling luck.
Rightly, David Coulthard should have won the race at Melbourne in 1998, but he stuck by the controversial gentleman's agreement with Hakkinen, to hand victory over. How many drivers would have stuck by his word in those circumstances? Maybe it struck a sour chord at the time, being particularly unfair on the fans, but he had made an agreement and he stuck by his every word. Formula One is a team sport, and he pulled through for the team. I can't think of one other driver who would have done the same in that situation. Oh - unless of course your name is Eddie Irvine and your team-mate is one Michael Schumacher and a "brake problem" miraculously develops and disappears in a matter of seconds.
He obviously did himself few favours at Spa-Francorchamps last year, with Michael Schumacher terminating his Ferrari on the back of Coulthard's McLaren. Frankly, accidents do happen, but ask yourself this question: why, in such horrendous conditions, did Michael Schumacher insist on driving like a maniac, when he held a more than comfortable lead of thirty-odd seconds? And why was Ross Brawn in the McLaren pits demanding Coulthard to immediately move over for Schumacher? There was no need for him to be in such a hurry to lap David Coulthard (and his performance in the pitlane after the accident was far more disgraceful than the coming-together itself). David Coulthard's telemetry was studied and it proved that David Coulthard didn't lift off like everyone criticised him for doing - and if he had not been pressured from the pits, he could have let Schumacher by in his own time, on a better section of the track. Even Eddie Irvine commented that the accident wasn't caused by David Coulthard on purpose, so why do many people fail to see this fact? This is motor racing, and strangely enough, motor racing breeds racing accidents!
Admittedly, David Coulthard has done very little so far in 1999 and he will be lucky to retain the third position in the drivers championship that he secured last season, but how do people expect him to perform when his McLaren won't even reach the chequered flag? No, he isn't the same aggressive driver as Schumacher or Hakkinen, but then nor is Damon Hill, and he has won twenty-two Grand Prix and a World Championship!
David Coulthard isn't the quickest, he isn't blessed with an unbelievable natural talent, and he does need to improve all round to be considered world champion material. But is works hard at it, and is certainly deserving of his top line seat. He has amazing grit and determination and does not let mindless comments affect him. He is one of the nicest guys on the grid - he makes the time to sign autographs, he makes the fans feel equally special and he is loyal to his team. It can't be easy to face so much criticism, and that undoubtedly places a lot of pressure on the Scot. But at the same time, it gives that extra bit of will to succeed, and to prove his critics wrong.
People probably think that driving a Formula One car around a circuit for seventy or so laps is like driving a 200 mile journey in your comfy saloon. Yeah right! Formula One is one of the most demanding sports in the world, requiring a high level of mental and physical fitness is for almost two hours non-stop. The drivers test continually, training every day, and risk their lives when racing. They sound like pretty talented men to me!
David Coulthard is a normal guy, who makes mistakes like everyone else. But he has demonstrated time again his skill and talent - so why, after all of this, is he still being maligned?
Julie Gates is happiest watching F1 and writing. Also interested in singing, cars, cinema, reading and going to concerts, she has little spare time to relax, but this is the way she likes it - rather being busy than idle as she can't stand still for five minutes! Totally committed to her career as a Formula One journalist, she is determined to succeed.