In conversation with David Coulthard

We caught up with the F1 legend in the city of Nawabs

David Coulthard’s name has been a part of Formula 1 since years now. The closest he came to ultimate glory was in 2001 when he secured as many as 10 podiums and finished only 2nd behind Michael Schumacher. Coulthard raced in one of the toughest era of ‘90s and ‘00s when he had to battle against the likes of Michael Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen, Damon Hill, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen among others. Despite not being able to win a world championship, the 44-year-old Scot is fairly satisfied with his run in Formula 1. And it this ‘no regrets’ attitude because which the fans have been going gaga over him since he first drove for Williams in 1994.
Recently, DC–as he’s affectionately known in the paddock–was in India to charm the audiences at the Red Bull F1 Showrun in Hyderabad and we got an opportunity to catch up with the racer-turned-presenter for a quick chat. Here’s how it went down:Between the times you last drove in Mumbai and this time you’re here in Hyderabad, India has already hosted three Grands Prix. Can you see any visible change in terms of enthusiasm/knowledge of the fans towards the sport? What has changed since then?
That’s a very good question of which I’m not very sure I’m in a position to answer because I’ve spent too little time in India this time around. But logically, they must have a better understanding of what Formula 1 is because you can’t bring a sport to the country, put it on the national media and the people are still completely unaware.

Being a commentator, I don’t have to be in bed too early.

A race weekend of an F1 driver vs. Race weekend of an F1 commentator. What’s the difference?
Being a commentator, I don’t have to be in bed too early. Physically, it’s a lot tougher, being a driver. You still little bit of pressure because, when you’re live and you’re doing grid interviews for 8-9 minutes on the show, you have to make sure that you don’t screw it up on the live television in front of everyone.

What’s it like to be in the paddock during a race weekend? What’s the camaraderie like between the drivers?
Everybody is so focused on their job that there isn’t really that much socializing on the paddock. Maybe at the flyaway races, a little bit [of socializing]; because you spend a few more days there and you may see each other at the hotels but during the weekend itself, not so much. You’re there to do your job and if you have nothing to do, you’ll simply be getting in someone’s way who has work to do.

Any place that’s one mile from the home is the best place to go for a drive. Unless I’m racing, I’ve got very little interest in driving.

During the drivers’ parade, we see all the drivers chilled out, chatting, laughing and having a good time. Between that to the start of the race, how do drivers cool down and focus just before the race? How do you switch from ‘mood A’ to ‘mood B’ and get in the zone?

Every driver have their own particular way of doing it. For me, it would be getting back in my room, getting some visualizing, some stretching and some preparations done. You just go through your routine and make sure you’ve ticked all the boxes and feel that you’ve done everything that you possibly can do ahead of the event, and that’s the thing which brings you into the zone.

Which is your favourite race track? Why?

Spa at Belgium. Very fast, high speed, historic and challenging.

Your favourite road car?
I’m not the sort of guy who’s fond of just one particular car. But, if I go back to the old classics, I’d say, the old gullwing Mercedes [300 SL] was an iconic car. McLaren F1 road car from 1990s was pretty iconic. I drive AMG products which are again high-performance road cars. In fact, I believe, whatever car you drive, becomes your favourite car. It’s not a competition like it is on the racetrack where you try to find out who’s got the quickest car or the best car. It’s more of a matter of opinion than matter of fact.

Driving a cadillac in Havana (Image credit: Balasz Gardi / Red Bull Content Pool)

So, which is your favourite place in the world to go for a drive? Say, if you had to pick up the 300SL and head out, where would you go?

Any place that’s one mile from the home is the best place to go [on a drive] because I don’t really like driving. The sooner I get back home, the happier I am. Unless I’m racing, I’ve got very little interest in driving.

Who’ve been your top three toughest opponents?
Michael [Schumacher], Mika [Hakkinen] and Kimi [Raikkonen].

If you had to sum up your F1 career in one line, what would you say?
It’s been a fantastic experience that has taken me all over the world. I’ve worked with some of the most creative and intelligent people. And I’ve tried my best and had fun along the way.

What does a country like India need to do to be at par with European countries and be considered a serious motorsport hub?

Grassroots motorsport. I think, it’s part of an education thing to improve road safety as well. Getting karting or some form of small, inexpensive [motorsport] competition in school would make better drivers. Because not everyone can be a Formula 1 driver and there are many people who’ve never been there, deserve to be there. I’ve never seen anyone who’s been through some form of motorsport competition and not being more aware, or more visually aware of the environment; and that makes you a better road car driver. Once you have good road drivers, the level of driving is increased on its own, you’re average racecar driver is much better than the best drivers of yesteryear.

What do you think needs to be done to keep the new/young audience interested in the sport?
Local talent is always going to be engaging. When you feel that you can get behind the national hero, that helps. In tennis, you’ve seen with Andy Murray and recently, you’ve seen next generation of Scots playing for Scotland at the Cricket World Cup. And because of that, the audience has taken an interest in the sport. The same holds true for motorsport.