CAR readers interview ex-F1 star David Coulthard

Published: 22 May 2009 Updated: 26 January 2015

Click here to watch the video of David Coulthard lapping Goodwood in a VW van

In a somewhat surreal event, we caught up with David Coulthard at Goodwood circuit this week and put the best of your questions to the former Red Bull racer. Why was it surreal? Well, the Scot was hammering around the circuit in Volkswagen’s Caddy racer – a front-drive turbodiesel van that  completes in the Volkswagewn Racing Cup championships. About as far removed from an F1 car as you can imagine… and the bemused look on his face when he peeled into the pits after a few laps said it all.

Watch the video of Coulthard in our player at the foot of this page. Here we put to Coulthard the best questions put forward by you, the readers of CAR Online.

CAR: Firstly – what was it like having a punt in a front wheel-drive diesel van?

David Coulthard: ‘Well… that was interesting! I don’t know why I bothered with Formula 1 for all those years – diesel vans are obviously where it’s at! I went into the first corner, locked up the rear wheels and started looking for the best place to crash. But seriously, as key supplier to Red Bull’s motorsport activities, Volkswagen’s vans play a key role in our organisation. It’s a little slower than I’m used to, but having a go in this Caddy is great fun.’

Matt78: What do you think of the proposed £40m budget cap and the two-tier system that the FIA are trying to bring in?

‘Controlling the budget is a difficult one, isn’t it, because where does it stop? It’s difficult, it’s time-consuming and it goes against the spirit of business and free trade. Making the sport more affordable where you don’t have to be a manufacturer to compete, that I do understand and agree with. That £40m doesn’t involve the drivers and the marketing, so yes, I’m sure they can do it for £40m, but the concept of being held to a certain figure is a tricky one.’

Resis: Next year, if you could race one or the other, which would it be: a budget-capped F1 car or an unlimited budget one, and why?

‘I don’t favour the two-tier championship. I think that Formula 1 should be the pinnacle of motorsport and to be that it has to be about the quickest car around a closed circuit. And currently that’s still the case – F1 is still the quickest thing around. Everything should be geared towards maintaining that. There are many examples of restricted one-make formulas where the racing is probably closer or arguably better than F1 but they don’t attract the best engineers, designers and drivers, the elite as much as any given aspect of Formula 1. A two-tiered championship is designed to ensure those that accept the cap win and therefore those that don’t accept not to win. It’s an absolute nonsense to suggest it because no one is going to enter the unlimited tier because it cannot win. Why would you do it?’

livc44411: Which driver currently in GP2 do you see as becoming the really next big thing in F1?

‘Well I guess Romain Grosjean has one of the best chances because he’s managed by FB Management and part of FB is run by the Michel brothers who run GP2. So he’s going to get well looked after in terms of equipment, engine and what not. I guess he’s got the best chance of coming through.’

Petrolheadinrussia: The rear diffuser has caused a rift in the game between teams. Do you think that the eventual outcome was correct?

‘We have a governing body which sets the regulations, so irrespective of what I think the FIA are the referees and their decision is the bottom line. I could never see the point of putting a lot of time and energy into arguing against a decision that was only ever going to be made in favour of the diffusers because the FIA has already passed it once, so why wouldn’t they pass it the second time around? It would make a mockery of their scrutineering system. It just seemed like a pointless exercise.’

Jacomoseven: If you had the chance to drive in any era of the sport, which one would you choose?

‘I think I would have stood a better chance of winning the championship had I not been around when Michael Schumacher was around! Competing against the most successful driver in the history of our sport made for a pretty bummy time to be out there racing. So the best I could do was finish second to him and finishing second meant finishing in front of Mika Hakkinen who was a double world champion. Okay so I don’t have the world champion badge but I’m quite comfortable in terms of opportunities I had in the period I raced.’

timsandford: Did you stay too long at McLaren and did staying so long damage your chances of winning the championship?

‘Well I had the opportunity to go to Ferrari at the same time Irvine went to Ferrari but I took the decision based on what gave me the best chance of winning at the time. The decision to leave Williams to go to McLaren was largely manipulated by my management at the time because I was young and didn’t really know better. Moving away from Williams in 1996 wasn’t the best move but in the longer term McLaren came back and I had nine seasons with the team. Every time my contract was up for renewal I looked around the market place at what was available I never felt was going to better than staying at McLaren. I was the longest-serving driver for McLaren, so clearly we were both happy with each other and that led into the last four years of my career, a building stage at Red Bull where I could use my experience to play a bigger part outside of the car. You can’t live life in hindsight – you make your decisions armed with information you have at the time and go forward.’

livc44411: What’s your opinion of Lewis Hamilton, how’s he handling the season so far and has the Australian GP incident affected him and his drive to win?

‘I don’t believe the Australian incident has affected his drive to win, I think his car being uncompetitive has affected his drive to win. I know the negative media surrounding Australia and Malaysia has left him somewhat exposed. But this is part of the business, you get good cars and bad cars. The fact is he’s in a multi-year multi-million contract, so he’s not going anywhere, is he?’

Agoogy: Do you read the SniffPetrol website … and have you bought one of their T-shirts about you?

‘Ha! I’ve seen it a couple of times. And I know about Crazy Dave. But no I don’t have a Crazy D T-shirt. Maybe I should get one!’

petrolheadinrussia: Would a crack at WRC or any other kind of motorsport have any appeal?

‘I’m not looking at anything at the moment. I had a couple of opportunities to go to Le Mans this year, but by the time they came I had already committed this year to a lot of travel and work so it wouldn’t have worked out. I have an open mind to racing something again in the future, but the main part of my career is now behind me and it would have to be something that I would want to do well in. I wouldn’t want a 365-day commitment like F1, though, as I now have a family.’

daveandrews13: What road cars do you have?

‘A couple of Smarts, a Mercedes M-Class and G-Class, an Infiniti FX45 – I brought that in New York with Jenson Button about four years ago and shipped them to Monaco. What else? A 1971 280SL Pagoda roof – same age as me – and that’s it. I don’t have anything sporty because I drive F1 racing cars for a living.’

livc44411: How would you describe Bernie Ecclestone, in one word

‘I’ll use two words, if you don’t mind. The boss.’

Batty: Do you ever feel like slapping some of the less animated drivers about their head and shouting ‘wake up and enjoy yourself’?

‘There’s always criticism – someone asked me about Jenson the other day and whether he was living the playboy life style a bit too much and I said, “We’ll he’s won four of the last five grands prix, so I think he’s got the right to celebrate!” You have to view things through your own eyes. I can’t possibly know what it’s like to be Kimi Raikkonen. Maybe he has a deeply troubled background that makes him seem depressed or monosyllabic, but the bottom line is if he’s happy, let him be happy in his own way. I can remember at the beginning of my career being criticised for not smiling enough on the podium and I remember thinking, “If I’m happy, just because I don’t necessarily look it, I’m still happy. I mean am I an actor or a racing driver? You have to find a line between the two – you are being paid to market products, not just drive the car.”