Retired F1 driver-turned-commentator David Coulthard would be “surprised” if any of the non-Mercedes-powered runners were to qualify and run at the front during this weekend’s season-opening Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix.

The Scot, who competed in F1 with Williams, McLaren and Red Bull Racing between 1994-2008, spoke exclusively to at last night’s GP@23 party at Crown Casino, an event attended by a his former teammate Mark Webber and three-time World Champion Sir Jackie Stewart.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a Mercedes-powered car up at the front in qualifying, and it should be a Mercedes-powered car on top of the podium,” he said on the event’s red carpet.

The BBC F1 commentator welcomed the arrival of the massively overhauled technical regulations, and the unpredictability that would come with this weekend’s race.

Coulthard at last night's GP@23 party

Coulthard at last night’s GP@23 party

“This is a great place to start the season. It’s going to be unpredictable. There are huge demands on the team with the new powerplants. Hybrid technology is obviously something many of us are familiar with on road cars, although the FIA have called it something different in F1 (ERS). I would expect a lot of cars not to finish given it’s such unfamiliar territory.

“Qualifying will only tell us part of the story. Qualifying allows the driver to use all of the horsepower and Energy Recovery System at their disposal, whereas in the race you’re restricted to 100kg of fuel, so you can’t use all of it all at once. The cars will be 3-4 seconds a lap slower in race trim, and that’s before you factor in the addition of the fuel. Seeing the chequered flag will be the biggest question.”

Coulthard twice tasted victory during his visits to Australia, claiming Mercedes’ first win with McLaren in 1997 and then backing that up with a stealthy win in the chaotic 2003 race. But for a pit lane accident in 1995 and having to cede to teammate Mika Häkkinen in 1998, he probably would have been the most successful Grand Prix driver on Australian soil. What is it about coming here that is so special?

“It’s a bloody long way to come, so if you’re heading out here you want to make sure you have a good time,” he smiled.

“Winning Grands Prix was always exciting and I got a lot of pleasure from it, but I also get a lot of excitement that other opportunities – like commentary, the media, and coming to gigs like this – have afforded me now that I have stopped racing.”

 Images via Corbis Images and XPB Images

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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.