Thirteen-time Grand Prix winner David Coulthard has announced his retirement from motor racing after his weekend’s DTM championship finale at Hockenheim.
The Scot – who serves as a commentator on the BBC’s F1 telecasts – has raced in the DTM championship with Mercedes since 2010, having retired from Formula 1 racing at the end of the 2008 season.
Affectionately nicknamed ‘DC’, he competed in 246 Grands Prix between 1994 and 2008 for the likes of Williams, McLaren and Red Bull, achieving 13 wins, 62 podium finishes, 12 pole positions, 18 fastest laps and 535 championship points – a then-record for a British driver. He finished runner-up in the 2001 World Championship.
Born into a Scottish family that had made some wealth in the trucking industry, Coulthard hit the karting circuits at the age of eight, earning multiple championships before he moved into Formula Ford in late 1988.
After dominating both junior championships and finishing third in the annual Formula Ford Festival, he was signed by Paul Stewart Racing to compete in the Formula Vauxhall Lotus and GM Lotus EuroSeries championships. A championship frontrunner, his tilt ended when he broke his leg at Spa, but his efforts over the year still earned him the inaugural McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year Award and a McLaren F1 test.
In 1991, he moved into the British Formula 3 championship, and staged a season-long battle for the championship with Rubens Barrichello – a battle he would ultimately lose – but he did go on to win the Macau F3 race and Marlboro Masters.
He moved with Paul Stewart Racing into Formula 3000 in 1992, but the team wasn’t competitive and he only finished ninth in the series. He had another F1 test at the end of the year, this time with Benetton.
In 1993, he switched to the Pacific Racing F3000 team, and it proved the right move. He won at Enna and earned a succession of other points’ finishes to wind up third overall in the standings. He also signed a test contract with Williams and raced a Jaguar in the GT Class at the Le Mans 24 Hours, winning class honours.
His F1 debut in 1994 came about in the most tragic of circumstances, being brought into the Williams team in the wake of Ayrton Senna’s death. Despite having to share his seat with Nigel Mansell over the season, he impressed overall, peaking with third place in his final outing of the year at Portugal.
Signed full-time to the team for 1995, he claimed his maiden Grand Prix win – after several promising, but ultimately fruitless races beforehand – at Portugal, but elected to take up McLaren’s very substantial offer for the 1996 season and beyond.
Partnering Mika Hakkinen in what was to become one of the longest-standing driver pairings in the sport’s history, Coulthard was evenly-matched with his team-mate, although neither would win a race that season.
He went better in 1997, winning at Australia and Italy to finish ahead of Hakkinen in the Drivers’ Championship standings, but he relinquished victory to his team-mate at Jerez under instruction from the team, and then repeated the gesture at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix the following year.
His role as a diligent number-two was inadvertently cast, and he never shook that reputation for the rest of his career. Year in, year out, he and his loyal band of British supports (and the press) would hopefully claim that this would be the year where he would challenge for the championship, but he was never able to string enough performances together to mount a proper bid for the title.
His runner-up performance in 2001 was his best, but even then it came at the expense of a disinterested Hakkinen, who quit at the end of the year.
Despite picking up his last career win in 2003, changes to the qualifying regulations – an area in which ‘DC’ never really excelled – really hurt his prospects, and his race hopes were hampered by having to start much further down the field than he should have, usually giving him too much to do on race day.
In 2005, he was a last-minute signing to the new Red Bull Racing team (itself borne from the ashes of the Jaguar Racing outfit), and a himself-reborn Coulthard – now free of the stifling corporate structure of McLaren – could now stop dying his grey hairs and actually have a little bit of fun for the first time in years.
His form blossomed as the team’s number-one driver, and he enjoyed the mantle for two years until Mark Webber joined the squad in 2007. Again cast into the shadows, he plugged on until the end of the 2008 season before finally electing to step down as the team signed Sebastian Vettel in his place.
Still working as an advisor and brand ambassador for Red Bull, ‘DC’ also juggled these duties with a full-time ride in Mercedes’ DTM operation and did this while also developing his skills in the BBC’s F1 commentary line-up from 2011 onwards, having served as a pundit on its broadcasting team since 2009.
“The weekend will be my final opportunity to compete at this level as I will stop racing in the DTM to concentrate on my developing off-track businesses, and of course my family,” the 41-year-old announced.
“I will continue to be part of the Mercedes family through my role as an AMG brand ambassador.
“I would like to thank, first of all, Norbert Haug and his team at Mercedes Motorsport for providing the opportunity, Deutsche Post for their support and their willingness to allow the Wings for Life Foundation to have promotional space on the car, which has helped raise awareness and funding for the research into spinal cord injuries.
“Thank you, as well, to the HWA and Mücke teams for patiently helping me with the transition from single-seaters to touring cars and of course to the people who make professional sport sustainable, the fans.
“I have enjoyed the last three years and I wish the organizers and competitors in DTM continued growth and success with the championship.”
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