McLaren ’50 in 50′: David Coulthard

David Coulthard  is another of McLaren’s 19 race winners. He is also their most successful non-championship winner with 12 victories during his eight years with the team. He is also McLaren’s longest serving driver to date, starting 150 races for the team from 1996 until his departure in 2004.

Scottish born Coulthard started racing in karts aged eight before rising through the single seater ranks. He raced in Formula Ford in 1989 and went on to win the inaugural McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year award, the prize of which is a test with the McLaren Formula One team. Before his Formula One race debut he also raced at Macau and competed in Formula 3000 in 1992. A test driver role was waiting for him with Williams in 1993 and from there he quickly became a race driver for them.

It was under rather unfortunate circumstances that Coulthard made his F1 debut in 1994, replacing Ayrton Senna after his fatal accident at Imola. With big shoes to fill, Coulthard’s debut at the Spanish Grand Prix was a disappointment after he retired. He took points at Canada and at his home grand prix before retiring from the next two races. It was a strong end to the season with points in Belgium and Italy, and taking his debut podium in Portugal. He finished behind his team-mate Damon Hill and ahead of his future team-mate Mika Hakkinen. Coulthard remained with Williams for 1995 and added a further seven podiums to his tally. As well as that he went one better in Portugal, having finished second the year before. He qualified on pole position ahead of Hill, set the fastest lap during the race and won. He finished the year third in the championship. Early in the year he signed for McLaren, to partner Hakkinen.

1996 was a baptism of fire for Coulthard at McLaren, after the team produced a car which was not up to scratch. Two podiums and a handful of points finishes saw him finish seventh in the championship with just 18 points. 1997 was a better year and Coulthard finished on the podium four times, including a win at the Italian Grand Prix. He finished the year in third place. 1998 and 1999 saw Hakkinen winning the drivers’ championship, with Coulthard finishing third in ’98 and fourth in ’99. It was another third place in the championship in 2000, despite fighting hard with his team-mate and Michael Schumacher. In 2001 he finished runner up to Schumacher in 2001, albeit 58 points down. There was a new team-mate for Coulthard in 2002 when Kimi Raikkonen joined the fray.

In 2002 Coulthard extended his stay with McLaren but faced a new challenge with young-gun Raikkonen pushing him. He never quite reached the heights of challenging for the title again, and between 2002 and 2004 he took nine podiums, including wins in Monaco and Australia. After it was announced that Juan Pablo Montoya would be joining the team for 2005, Coulthard left and moved to Red Bull Racing.

Over the course of his time with McLaren Coulthard had 150 race starts of which 12 resulted in victories and 39 further podiums. He retired from Formula One at the end of 2008 and took up a commentary role with the BBC for their coverage. He also drove in DTM until retiring from that in 2012. As part of the BBC’s celebrations for McLaren’s 50th anniversary, Coulthard reunited with his former team-mate Hakkinen to drive some of their classic cars.

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