The retired F1 driver David Coulthard is one of those drivers who had the full capabilities of becoming a Formula One champion if his circumstances had been different. However, his talent, experience and knowledge, as well as his smooth driving style, are still widely respected and he will always be counted among one of the best racers of modern Formula One.
He recorded 246 starts and 13 wins in the Formula One World Championship between 1994 and 2008, driving for Williams, McLaren and Red Bull. His career-best result was the second place in the championship in 2001.
Scottish kart champion early in a career
David Marshall Coulthard was born on March 27, 1971, in Twynholm, Scotland. His father who ran a haulage company but was an unaccomplished racing driver who had a big influence on his son to begin a racing career.
The young David was a motorsport fan from an early age but it was after his 10th birthday when he started racing in kart series in Scotland. Very soon, in 1983, he become the Scottish junior kart champion and continued his journey through the ranks.
Quiting school to start a racing career
In 1988, he made a decision to quit his business studies and moved to Milton Keynes in England to be closer to the heart of the UK motorsport. Working his way up the racing ladder, Coulthard started with the Formula Ford 1600 and the Formula Vauxhall Lotus.
Only a year later, in 1989, he won the British Formula Ford Championship and became the first winner of the McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year award, what allowed him to test a McLaren Formula One car.
Disqualification after Le Mans 24h victory
The defining moment of his professional career was undoubtedly when he chose to follow single seater race cars instead of touring and GT cars which he also had chance to drive. In early 1990s, Coulthard raced in various championships such as the British Formula 3 series, International Formula 3000 and even raced at the 1992 24 Hours of Le Mans, gathering some precious racing experience. At Circuit de la Sarthe he was driving alongside John Nielsen and David Brabham for the team TWR Jaguar Racing where they won the race in GT Class but they were later disqualified for a technical infringement.
Macau Grand Prix winner in 1991
The highlights of that period were the second place in 1991 British Formula 3 Championship, when he finished behind Rubens Barrichello, and a victory in Macau Grand Prix, both achieved with the Paul Stewart Racing team. In 1993, David was 3rd in the International Formula 3000, finishing the season behind Olivier Panis and Pedro Lamy.
Beginning of the F1 career
Coulthard’s Formula 1 career started in 1993 when he was employed by Williams Grand Prix Engineering team as their official test driver.
After a tragic death of Ayrton Senna in 1994, David Coulthard got the chance to race for Williams and debuted as an F1 driver in the 1994 Spanish Grand Prix. Very soon, it was obvious that the young Scot is not just another of many talented racers but a serious driver with enormous potential.
During 1994 and 1995, he raced for Williams and achieved his first GP win in Portugal and took two podiums at the Nurburgring and Aida circuit, what propelled him to the 3rd spot in the 1995 Drivers's championship, behind Michael Schumacher and teammate Damon Hill.
Eight years with McLaren Formula 1 team
The year 1996 marked the start of long-term employment by McLaren team. With the Woking-based team, Coulthard achieved many victories and even came close of winning the Formula One title in 2001, what was his career best.
In both 1997 and 1998, David was 3rd in the standings, with three wins and 13 podium finishes on his account. In 1999 he dropped to the 4th place in the standings failing to win a single race, but in 2000 for the 4th time in his career Coulthard finished 3rd overall, again being behind Schumacher and a new teammate, Mika Hakkinen. With the Finn he became a close friend and they formed one of the best pairings in the modern Formula One history.
Coulthard was the 2001 season runner-up
The season of 2001 was the best in Coulthards F1 career. He finished the season as a vice-champion but actually never was really in the battle for the title as Schumacher again was dominant. However, David scored two race wins that year and amassed a total of 10 podium finishes.
The last three years with McLaren weren't as good. Coulthard couldn't win any of 51 races he has entered what was quite disappointing. In 2002 he had six podiums on his account before taking the 5th place in the championship. In the following year, a number of podiums halved and he dropped to the 7th position. Finally, in 2004 David was 10th overall, without a single podium finish and with the 4th place in the German Grand Prix as a highlight of the season.
Move to Red Bull
However, in 2005, Coulthard moved to Red Bull Racing and stayed there for four seasons. He wanted to help the new team and also to try to revive his career. His experience was very helpful to the team but the results he has achieved were somewhat below his reputation.
During that period, David was able to score only two podium finishes, while his best result in the Drivers' Championship was the 10th place in 2007 season. The Scottish driver stayed with Red Bull Racing in 2009 as a test driver and then retired from Formula One but continued his racing career.
After retiring from Formula One, Coulthard raced three seasons in DTM championship, driving for the Mercedes-backed Mucke Motorsport team.
However, the results were modest. In 2010 and 2011 he scored only a point in each campaign, while in 2012, his final year before retirement, Coulthard collected 14 points before finishing 15th in the final standings.
Post-racing career and private life
After retirement, David stayed involved in motorsport, working as a TV commentator and analyst of Formula One races. For his services to motorsport, in 2010 Coulthard was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire.
Except for his results during racing career, David was also known as a kind of playboy as he dated some worldwide famous models. In 2000, Coulthard survived airplane accident when the leased Learjet suffered an engine failure and crashed while attempting an emergency landing in France.
Two victories at Race of Champions
David Coulthard participated for the first time at the annual Race of Champions (ROC) event in 2004. Despite being retired, he remained a regular competitor after 2012. He won the event for the first time in 2014 at Bushy Park, Barbados. The second victory followed in February 2018 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.