Two-time Australian Grand Prix winner David Coulthard was one of the most famous faces on the red carpet at last night’s Australian Grand Prix GP@23 party at Crown.

He kindly spoke to on his arrival at the glitzy event and offered his thoughts on the current state of play as Formula 1 gets set to start another championship season…

The Australian Grand Prix is upon us again. How do you think our own Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo will fare?

Of the two of them out there, Mark’s obviously the most likely of them to win the Grand Prix. It must be his year – it’s about time – and having won some of the classic races such as Silverstone, Monaco and many others, I would be delighted to see him on top of the podium.

I’ve been lucky enough to win here twice, and I know what it feels like. It’s a great atmosphere; you get a really enthusiastic crowd from Australia and overseas – I have bumped into many fans who have flown here from overseas especially to come here for the race. This is one of the truly international Grands Prix.

Championship-wise, do you expect we will have another season as open as last year’s?

Yes, you and I could even have a chance, even though we’re not on the grid [laughs]. It will be very open because of the stability of the regulations and the fact that there is almost no performance difference between the various engines and gearboxes on the grid.

There has been a lot of discussion about the influencing of pay drivers on this year’s grid. What are your thoughts on this hot topic?

It’s a popular topic right now. But the reality is that the likes of Fernando Alonso paid to get into Formula 1 with Minardi, Ayrton Senna did likewise when he started out with Toleman. There have always been pay drivers in Formula 1; some of them have been good enough to become World Champion, and of course some of them weren’t.

Is there anyone not on the grid today where we’re asking: ‘This is unbelievable that they’re not in F1. Why is no one recognising them as as an Alonso?’

Now, I’m sure the individual drivers considers themselves to be as good as an Alonso – as would his management and his family. Who could we name today who is not in Formula 1 that isn’t an Alonso, Hamilton or Vettel? There’s a lot of drivers who have the potential to be an Alonso, Hamilton of Vettel, but that’s not what this is about. This is about finding exceptional drivers.

Melbourne has always put on a good show and the drivers and fans clearly love coming here. But we always have a small and very vocal circle who criticise the event and call for it to be scrapped. What is your response to this criticism?

They’re welcome to their opinion and I respect their right to have an opinion. I did an interview when I came down here a few weeks ago and I remarked that there were plenty of things and events I didn’t like, but I don’t go around complaining about them if my local government spends money on these events.

I respect the fact that other people do like these events. Formula 1 is a truly global sport, and you certainly don’t need my sales pitch on it to know that it brings a lot of benefits to the city.

Yes, it costs a lot of money to host the event. But I am spending my dollars while I’m here – as is every other person who goes to Albert Park – and you can’t have one without the other. If you don’t invest in your business and your city, then people won’t come – it’s as simple as that. Formula 1 and Melbourne are a perfect marriage.

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.