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Q&A with David Coulthard: Top 10 F1 questions answered

2016-05-03 09:22

F1 VETERAN: F1 veteran David Coulthard shares his thoughts on the current state of F1. Image: NewsPress

Cape Town - Wheels24 was the only SA publication, invited by Laureus, to interview former Formula 1 driver turned race commentator - David Coulthard.

Wheels24's Charlen Raymond had the privilege of interviewing the veteran.

From race analysis to the current state of F1, Coulthard shares his views on how to improve the sport.

Top 10 F1 questions answered:

1. Wheels24: Mercedes has dominated the sport for the past two years. What makes that team so good? 

Coulthard: "I think it's the attention to detail. I was in [their garage] at the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix, and it really is about the tiniest of details that people might not fully appreciate why that would make a difference in car performance or driver performance. 

"It's all sight point and touch point, which just then filters through the whole organisation. And then you're less likely to make mistakes and you're more likely to find areas where, in a sport of diminishing returns, because of various engineering restrictions and materials and things like that, it just means that you exploit all of those to a high level."

2. W24: The Grand Prix Drivers Association has voiced its concerns regarding the sport's management and improving driver safety. Was this a significant moment in F1? 

Coulthard: "Well, it was, and it did focus primarily on safety in the past. But they have come to a point where if you look at the representatives from the commercial rights holder, he'll say (Bernie Ecclestone) the drivers are stupid and [should] concentrate on driving.
"I wouldn't want to disrespect anyone in any business or industry where clearly, whether inherited or whether created, you have to continue to deliver. So I feel like it probably highlights a little bit one of the dysfunctional aspects of Formula 1 where there's a lack of respect.

"I think that the key, core message of sport, and if you go back to what Nelson Mandela said in his speech for Laureus about sport, has the ability to change the world. That may seem as a fashionable statement for many, but if you look at the way sport unites and sport brings people together and it gives people hope, it gives them a moment to think of something other than their own challenges in life.
"I think arguably the drivers’ voice adds the visual and physical representation of success and failure, [and] should be listened to and should be relevant and shouldn't be dismissed. So I would rather treat people with respect and allow them to have a voice, because they are the main visual part of why people turn up to watch F1.

3. W24: What can be done to improve the sport?

Coulthard: "I think that if we start at the root of how rules and regulations are put together, there's a lot of debate right now about whether the car count procedure of governance is the correct one; where if I'm a commercial rights holder and the teams come together to decide on various rules. 

"There isn't a quick answer to that question. Sadly it becomes so politically [and] financially motivated with everyone trying to get a bigger slice of the pie and more control that, as often happens from time to time, the sport suffers and, therefore, the fans suffer. 

"So, if you were to take away all of the current people that are involved in that decision making process, what are the chances that the next group coming in wouldn't just be the same: all looking for a personal gain, all looking for the biggest share of the cake so they can either make a faster car or they can give more return to their investors."

4. W24: New regulations are set to implemented in 2017. The changes could mean faster car but will this improve the "show"?

Coulthard: "Well, you make the cars faster, potentially, if you sell the same style and compound and structure of tyre. You're still going to have the same issue. They (the tyres) are the only thing that touches the ground.  If you put this type of tyre on a faster car, then, you know, nothing much is going to change in terms of how the drivers go about wheel to wheel racing.

"I trust in the driver's feedback. There would be no reason to give misinformation to each other and to me. Great, make the cars faster, but we need to change the current tyres, as well, and allow the drivers to have what would be a standard degradation rather than a thermal degradation."

5. W24: Lap times of 2016 cars have nearly returned to 2013-levels. Do you think it's wise for the FIA to change engine rules considering the cars are already improving in terms of speed? 

Coulthard: "Historically, when you have a big change in regulations, there's one team that gets it right, and the others have to then spend the next couple years catching up.

"So, I think you have a good point; that arguably the sport has settled down in its third year of hybrid engines. There's a consolidation in allowing a bit more close wheel to wheel action, rather than coming up with something completely different again.

"But that is at the mercy of the rule makers. The drivers just want fast, challenging, wheel to wheel racing. They really are not emotionally attached to anything else in the regulations.

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6. W24: Since 2015, two rookies, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jnr, has joined F1. The pair are excelling on the track. How do you assess their potential? Could they be future world champions?

Coulthard: "Well, as much as I can see from the way both of them have arrived at F1 and delivered, then I do believe they are both at the very least potential Grand Prix winners in the future. And then depending on the decisions they make, then potential world champions. They are both quality, young drivers.

"I think that the spotlight initially has been on Max, because of being the younger of the two. But Carlos has absolutely been able to hold his own and deliver, and it's actually a dilemma for the Toro Rosso team, because historically one driver has shone and he's moved up, and then the other one has gone onto something else. 

"I would have no problem having either of those two, if not both, on the team driving for me, because they have got all the character traits of potential champions, which is they are both focused, hungry, got that steely edge about them.  They have grown up around racing families. 

"And again, with Stoffel Vandoorne coming in and delivering for McLaren, the future of F1 and the next generation of drivers looks good, looks positive, and that's important."

7. W24: Who is your favourite F1 driver and why? 

Coulthard: "I have great admiration for a number of drivers. Probably of the modern era, I've hung out with Jenson Button more than any of the other drivers, so he's a buddy.

"Other than that, yeah, I don't dislike any of them. 

8. W24Fernando Alonso suffered a horror crash in Australia. At 300km/h he performed more somersaults than a gymnast yet he walked away from the wreckage relatively unscathed. What are your thoughts on introducing a new ‘halo’ safety device in F1 next year?

Coulthard: "If it's felt that is something that would offer protection to our frontal impact of the driver's head and sustain - sort of protect - against injuries that sadly killed Senna and Jules Bianchi - then I find it very difficult to see how anyone could argue against that. 

"You know, there obviously is historical sort of acceptance of what a Grand Prix car is. It's an open wheel, open top car. If you start closing the wheels and closing the top, then it becomes a sports car, as we traditionally know it. So there's signs behind the reserves that's going into it. 

"I think whenever there is something new implemented, there will always be, as there always is in life, varying opinions. But it's the governing body that are there to try and sift through all that and do the right thing."

9. W24: Do you think it was a good move for Alonso to return to McLaren?

Coulthard: "You've got to be in a happy place. If you're not in a happy place, you'll never deliver your full potential. He finished second in the World Championship with Ferrari, and he never achieved what he set out to do, which was to win the World Championship; but neither did any other driver at Ferrari during that time.

"Before Michael Schumacher started the winning streak for Ferrari, it had been over a decade - as far as I can recall - since they have won a World Championship; or even longer. So you don't always end up getting what you want. 

"But he still delivers at the highest level for that team. He's taken a move back to McLaren. It isn't working out right now, but no one has the crystal ball to see the future. But hard work will engineer the way out of it."

10. W24: You have previously raced for McLaren, then led by team boss Ron Dennis. What are your thoughts on Dennis as a leader?

Coulthard: "Ron has great vision, and you just need to look at what he's achieved in his life. No disrespect to being a mechanic, but he's gone from being a mechanic to being a shareholder and CEO of a group of companies, which are high engineering, high level, high achieving businesses. So in terms of business, he's an incredibly successful businessman. Certainly he has my admiration for what he's been able to achieve. 

"Ron - when he looks in the mirror - can be proud.

"I admire anyone that can structure and lead in a very high pressure bubble of F1."

A photo posted by @circuitinsider on


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