Born on March 27th, 1971, David Marshall Coulthard grew up in Twynholm, Scotland and began karting a very young age. David was encouraged by his father – a haulage company owner, and progressed well through the junior ranks. By 1989, David was competing in Formula Ford and so successful was the young Scot, he won the inaugural McLaren/Autosport Young Driver Of The Year Award.
1990 saw David break a leg at Spa Francorchamps which ruined the rest of the season, but David returned the following year and managed race wins at Zandvoort and Macau. Coulthard entered the Formula 3000 championship in 1992, and despite finishing in only ninth in his debut year, David managed to improve to third in his second season.
David’s impressive form in Formula 3000 earned him a testing role in 1993 at Williams, then enjoying a successful run of championships. Coulthard continued his relationship with Williams into 1994, and following the tragic death of the team’s lead driver – Ayrton Senna – early in the season, Coulthard was suddenly promoted into the spotlight alongside the new team leader and fellow Briton, Damon Hill. Despite having to step aside for Nigel Mansell on four occasions, Coulthard amassed 14 points which placed him in 8th that year.
Rather surprisingly, Williams chose to retain Coulthard over Mansell for the 1995 year, and David returned the gesture with five pole positions and his maiden victory in Portugal at the Estoril circuit. Unfortunately, David also made some silly mistakes that year. At Monza, Coulthard spun on the formation lap, and at the final race in Adelaide, he crashed while entering the pit lane. These errors gave cause for concern with team owner Frank Williams, and in 1996 Coulthard made way for Canadian Jacques Villeneuve and became a McLaren driver.
The first year with McLaren – spent alongside Mika Hakkinen – was unmemorable and David could only manage 18 points, less than half of his total haul the year previous. However, McLaren were slowly on the rise, and 1997 saw new sponsors on the car and new personnel in the pit lane. After Michael Schumacher’s disqualification from the championship after his incident with Villeneuve in Jerez, David was left tying for points with Jean Alesi in third. A distinct improvement and only served as a taster for what was about to become. Mika Hakkinen won the final race at Jerez that year. Although the victory was gifted to the Finnish driver, it was the start of McLaren’s dominance for a few years.
1998-2001: McLaren Success
1998 started well for both drivers. It was clear after qualification for the Australian Grand Prix that McLaren had a very fast car. David would have won the race had it not been for an agreement between himself and Mika, and the Finn took another victory, despite making an error and pitting incorrectly (reasons for which have never been satisfactorily explained). David gifted his team mate the race win, and this little move started what became of inter-team race tactics in modern F1.
The season continued to go well for McLaren, but it was Mika Hakkinen who was able to capitalise on the fast car better than David. Coulthard eventually had to concede the title to the faster Hakkinen and spent the remainder of the season playing the supporting role.
1999 was to be a similar year to the one previous. McLaren continued to produce a fast and capable car, but again it was Hakkinen who found the pole positions and race victories. It seemed that David faded into obscurity, despite having a superb car under him. The same story happened in 2000 and 2001. Although Coulthard did improve, it was always Mika who came off better, and with Ferrari on the rise, it was getting increasingly difficult for McLaren to produce dominating cars. 2001 saw Coulthard finish the season with 65 points, but Michael Schumacher who finished on top with his Ferrari had amassed 123 points – almost twice as many.
2002-2004: McLaren Obscurity
2002 saw Mika Hakkinen retire and was replaced another hot young Finn, Kimi Raikkonen. Kimi regularly showed David up and outpaced him. While Coulthard still showed signs of competitiveness, it was clear that the relationship between Coulthard and the team was beginning to collapse. This was compounded in 2003 when the FIA introduced the new one-lap qualifying format, which caused David to develop stage-fright, something which hampered his qualifying attempts and damaged his reputation. By the end of 2004, David was not re-signed, instead he would be replaced with Juan Pablo Montoya, and Coulthard searched for a new home, determined not to be finished with Formula One.
2005: A New Beginning
The new Red Bull Racing team would open their arms to the experienced Scot, and although the two seemed like an odd pairing initially, Coulthard enjoyed regular points in the team’s first season. Partnered with the young Christian Klien (and on occasion, Vitantonio Liuzzi), David showed his maturity and experience and scored a total of 24 points; the same as his 2004 haul with McLaren.
Impressed with this, Red Bull Racing extended Coulthard’s contract, and got serious with Formula One by signing Ferrari as the engine supplier for 2006. However, despite the new power plant, the team didn’t fair so well in their second campaign, and despite having just one team mate all year, Coulthard could only manage 14 points. The improvement of BMW and a return to form for Honda was too much for Red Bull to achieve in their second year, but the team showed signs of improvement. David managed the team’s first podium at Monaco, and celebrated by wearing a Superman cape (as part of a sponsorship deal). It was also announced during the season that Adrian Newey had signed for the team to help with designing the 2007 car; a massive boost for the team partly because of Adrian’s ability to produce championship winning cars, and partly because he and Coulthard spent so many years together at McLaren.
Mark Webber joined Red Bull having fallen out with Williams, and pairing, coupled with the Adrian Newey chassis, looked set to move closer to the front of the grid. The RBR3, which looked remarkably similar to the 2006 McLaren, didn’t start off so well, but development through the course of season went well. At time, the Red Bull looked like a very fast car, in the hands of both drivers. However, the gearbox failed far too many times and all to often Coulthard and Webber were left with a box full of neutrals.
Coulthard mustered 14 points throughout the season, the same as the year previous four more than team mate Mark Webber. However, the car did run well when the gearbox kept itself together, and with the retention of both drivers and key personnel 2008 should see some improvement in the Red Bull’s fortune.
Much like the year previous, Red Bull gave Coulthard a troubled car. When everything fell into place the RB4 drove well, powered by the Renault engine. However, more often than not the car did not perform well, much to the frustration of drivers Coulthard and Mark Webber. At the beginning of the season Coulthard was plagued with retirement. At the first race he collided with Felipe Massa, the Red Bull sustaining considerable damage. In Malaysia, David had a minor off during Free Practice and the car bounced over the kerbs. Although the on-board camera suggested the accident was very minor, the car appeared to fall apart and this resulted in the FIA inspecting the machine very thoroughly. Red Bull were given the all-clear to continue racing, but the fact the RB4 was not driving well painted a dire picture for the remainder of the season.
Coulthard decided to retire at the end of 2008, focusing his efforts instead on advising the team as well as taking up a new challenge working with the BBC as they covered the sport once again after a long break. Coulthard instantly became loved on the show, following Jake Humphrey and Eddie Jordan up and down the pitlane reporting in the pre-race build-up show. David will continue this role into the 2010 season.
It should also be noted that David Coulthard is Britain’s all time top scorer on 535 points, and is currently fifth out of all Formula One drivers.
Beyond Formula One
Outside of F1, David owns several hotels, both in Britain and in his current home, the principality and tax haven of Monaco. David has developed a reputation after tabloids reported the Scot had enjoyed relationships with a string of models, including Heidi Klum, Andrea Murray and Ruth Taylor. Coulthard has always denied these claims, and after being engaged to Heidi Wichlinski and Simone Abdelnour, Coulthard is now married to Karen Minier – a former Formula One correspondent from Belgium. The couple have recently started family, with Minier giving birth to their son, Dayton Minier Coulthard, shortly after David’s final Formula One race in 2008.
In 2000 while traveling to Cote d’Azur International Airport in Nice, the leased Learjet carrying himself, then-girlfriend Heidi Wichlinski and trainer and bodyguard Andy Matthews, crashed while attempting an emergency landing at Lyon-Satolas airport, France. All three passengers survived, but pilot David Saunders and co-pilot Dan Worley died.
In 2007, Coulthard released his autobiography – It Is What It Is – and most interestingly, David spoke of suffering from bulimia as a teenager while racing karts. The media picked up on this at the time and since then Coulthard has been honest and frank when questioned about this time in his life.