My F1 Cars: Coulthard on CVT Williams, McLaren and more · RaceFans


David Coulthard, the 13-time grand prix winner who turned 50 earlier this yr, was promoted into Formulation 1 within the wake of Ayrton Senna’s demise at Imola in 1994.

Having served as Williams’ take a look at driver for the earlier year-and-a-bit he was an apparent selection. To suggest he owed his profession solely to the Brazilian’s tragic demise would do Coulthard a grave disservice, for one doesn’t win a median of a grand prix per season via pure fortune.

Having come up via karting, DC gained each 1989 British Formulation Ford titles earlier than transferring to Vauxhall Lotus and F3, inserting fourth and second in 1990 and 1991 respectively. Through the latter season he gained each F3 blue riband occasions, particularly Zandvoort’s Marlboro Masters and the Macau Grand Prix with Paul Stewart Racing.

His first style of F1 had, although, are available in November 1990 with the V12-powered McLaren-Honda MP4/5B take a look at automotive – his prize for successful the inaugural (1989) BRDC McLaren Autosport Award.

“It was a moist day at Silverstone,” he recollects. “But it surely was [still] fairly spectacular to really feel all that energy. It was extremely clean. From my viewpoint, it was spectacular to see how properly engineered it was, the acceleration, the gearbox. The decrease system automobiles have been fairly uncooked.”

Max Verstappen helped Coulthard have a good time his fiftieth birthday

With that have beneath his belt it was no shock that Williams got here knocking on the finish of 1992 with a take a look at deal, crucially, at a time when testing was successfully limitless. Williams was flying excessive on the time, its FW14B – arguably the highest-tech F1 automotive ever, designed by Patrick Head and Adrian Newey – having gained each titles.

“It was an excellent alternative as a result of being a take a look at driver in these days meant testing,” DC smiles. “I keep in mind one yr we examined till the twenty third of December, then I used to be testing once more on 2nd of January, we actually have been out on a regular basis.

“Nearly all of my profession, even once I was [F1] racing, it could be: get house Sunday night time [after a grand prix], Monday fly to the subsequent take a look at observe, take a look at Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, then fly to a promotion someplace for a cigarette firm. I’d get the weekend and Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday to arrange for the subsequent grand prix…”

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For 1993 DC’s major take a look at mission was the lively suspension FW15 in its varied evolutions and in guide and continuously variable transmission guises, plus testing the passive FW16 forward of 1994. He recollects that the lively suspension automotive felt “like a magic carpet experience. It actually did clean out the circuit as a result of it was focusing on experience top and didn’t have the pitch and the roll and every thing you are feeling in a passive automotive.”

Energetic suspension was banned on the finish of 1993. “With passive it felt such as you have been simply being shaken to bits,” he recollects.

Coulthard labored on Prost’s closing title-winning F1 automotive

Williams’ lively system – formally generally known as “reactive” suspension – had a peculiarity: as aerodynamic load throughout the rear elevated so its experience top struggled to take care of an excellent keel, inflicting oscillations.

On different automobiles, lively suspension was blamed for a number of main crashes. However whereas Williams encountered system failures, DC recollects the “failsafe all the time put the automotive on its bump rubbers – there was by no means a scenario the place it threw you off the observe.”

As lined in a latest function on innovation in Formulation 1, the FIA banned constantly variable transmission whereas Williams was engaged on such a system. “It was quite a lot of enjoyable engaged on the event,” its chief tester recollects.

Coulthard is evidently dissatisfied the system by no means made it to a race. “I keep in mind the ultimate flurry of it, as a result of it was already banned earlier than we’d truly completed the event,” he recollects.

“As soon as the FIA acquired on to the truth that Williams have been working with the Van Doorne firm to develop CVT, we did sizzling laps at Silverstone on the [club circuit], so it wasn’t on the complete grand prix observe.

“You needed to get used to the truth that the engine would sit at its optimum energy supply.” He mimics the flat buzzing of an engine in comparison with the extra acquainted sound of revs rising and falling. “ So if you lifted off on the finish of the straights the belt successfully moved down the 2 cones. That was barely disconcerting, though it drove completely positive.

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There have been no direct lap time comparisons, however DC reckons it could have been faster as a result of, “There was no gearshift, so no time loss. That was a number of years earlier than we went to seamless shifts that saved you fairly a little bit of time, plus you’ll have had optimum energy and continuously various ratios. It most likely would have been half second plus faster than a typical automotive.”

After Senna’s demise in 1994, Coulthard joined Hill at Williams

As soon as Coulthard hit the grid in 1994, the Williams FW16 was good to him, delivering 14 factors within the eight races he contested with the automotive. They included his first podium, in Portugal. He recollects the Renault V10 as being, “An awesome engine, a extremely form of drivable torquey engine, with good drive off the nook and no actual drop-outs.

“Renault have been fairly adventurous with their [hydraulic] valves and creating rpm, which was good for giving us efficiency. Fairly dependable – clearly, failures alongside the best way, however nowhere close to the quantity of failures I had (later) when at McLaren-Mercedes, blowing engines almost on daily basis [during testing].”

Following a disagreement with Frank Williams on the finish of 1994 – DC was principally on a take a look at driver wage – he signed with McLaren for 1996, thus turning his second Williams yr into an interim season with the FW17, successfully an evolution of what went earlier than, albeit with Newey-style aerodynamic refinements to the entrance and rear wings, together with aerodynamically formed wishbones.

Coulthard turned a grand prix winner at Estoril in 1995

The FW17 was additionally the automotive that delivered his first grand prix win, at Estoril, with Michael Schumacher chasing him exhausting: “My first victory, so pole place, quickest lap, three-stop race which I keep in mind being fairly a problem since you simply acquired no time to get into cruise mode. I needed to push each single lap as a result of Michael was pushing me fairly exhausting early on.

In his closing race for Williams, at Adelaide, Coulthard thumped the pit lane barrier whereas coming in to pit from the lead. Technical glitch or driver error?

“I got here in and did the downshift, then acquired an overdrive on the blips, so it gave me a push. By the point I semi-reacted I’d run out of area, so it regarded like an easy driver fuck-up…”

After that Coulthard joined a McLaren crew in rebuilding mode, having cut up with Honda, Ford and Peugeot in fast succession earlier than signing with Mercedes from 1996. The crew additionally switched title sponsorship from Marlboro to West a yr later – therefore DC’s first yr with the Woking crew was in conventional pink/white livery; Silver Arrows conflict paint thereafter. No matter, it was a shock to the system.

A return to McLaren beckoned in 1996

“The ‘96 automotive [MP4/11] was significantly higher than [MP4/10] however what was an eye fixed opener once I drove the ’95 automotive is I’d been in a Williams that was a successful automotive, and the McLaren ’95 automotive was just about on the again.

“Once I examined it on the finish of [1995], I used to be a bit nervous as to how scary it could be to drive. In precise reality, it was simpler to drive than the ’95 Williams, and that was the primary time I came upon that quick automobiles are harder to drive than gradual automobiles that don’t have downforce, and due to this fact they’re simply not as peaky.

“There’s a notion that the Haas should be a bloody nightmare as a result of it’s [currently] the slowest automotive, and that’s additionally why some drivers in let’s say, not excellent automobiles, shine, however after they get right into a prime automotive they battle as a result of they will’t deal with the peakiness.”

However the crew was desperate to make progress, as was its engine provider. Coulthard recollects Mercedes engine director Mario Illien was “very courageous, he would push the boundaries.

“I feel we have been getting via like 100-odd engines a yr, only for testing, apply, qualifying and the races.”

David Coulthard, McLaren, Jerez, 1997
McLaren’s MP4-12 featured trick ‘brake-steer’ pedal

Coulthard slipped to seventh within the 1996 championship, scoring a single podium with the MP4/11. Nonetheless, the subsequent yr marked an upturn in McLaren’s fortunes, with MP4-12 – in each respect a much-improved evolution of its predecessor – delivering a maiden McLaren win for David in Melbourne and the primary for the crew since dropping Senna in 1993. It was additionally the primary victory for a ‘Silver Arrows’ since 1955.

A follow-up win for Coulthard in Monza helped him take third within the championship behind the Williams pair, following Schumacher’s disqualification. This was regardless of seven retirements, primarily resulting from engine failures.

The MP4-12 was the notorious ‘brake-steer’ automotive, that includes a further pedal to manage braking on one facet of the automotive, which McLaren termed an ‘uneven braking system’. This was banned throughout the next season, however the driver reckons the system wasn’t the game-changer it was perceived to be.

“It helped rotate the automotive throughout understeer at excessive pace,” he says. “Sure, it gave efficiency, however it wasn’t the dominant motive. The ban took away some efficiency, however it wasn’t one thing that noticed us all of a sudden drop off.”

Hakkinen was extra snug with understeer-prone MP4-13

At McLaren Coulthard was reunited with Newey, who additionally moved on from Williams. His MP4-13 propelled the crew to the highest in 1998, however on the season-opener in Australia Coulthard was controversially ordered to cede victory to team-mate Mika Hakkinen, who had pitted in error after mis-hearing a message. “As a result of [he] fractured his cranium in his crash in ’95 at Adelaide, he’d misplaced the listening to in a single ear.”

Typically, although, Coulthard struggled with the automotive: “It had understeer, so it was tough to get the automotive rotated and getting the understeer out made the rear nervous. Mika was extra snug with that specific scenario – slim automotive, grooves tyres – than I used to be initially.” Nonetheless, it delivered a win at Imola plus eight decrease podiums, making for third within the championship.

Throughout Coulthard’s tenure at McLaren the FIA moved to introduce stricter limits on how groups may function their automobiles immediately from the pit wall and even override the instructions of the driving force. As he relates, this led to a hair-raising second when the crew as soon as set his automotive as much as keep at full throttle for a selected nook – the high-speed left-right flick on the Nurburgring which follows the Dunlop hairpin – even when he lifted.

“If you happen to lifted momentarily the Mercedes engine for no matter motive, I feel it was the butterfly or slides, it simply had a hesitation when it got here again on energy at excessive RPM, excessive pace,” Coulthard explains. “It was a form of chicken-and-egg – should you didn’t raise, you have been positive, however should you lifted you then have been secure within the nook however you then misplaced time if you get again on energy.”

McLaren’s answer for this nook was to programme the engine to maintain the throttle broad open even when Coulthard lifted. “We programmed [it to] simply keep flat then should you panicked, you would need to experience the brake.”

This was manageable for a low-fuel, sticky-tyred qualifying run, much less so the subsequent day when the automotive was brimmed with gasoline for the race. “It was positive for quail however then they forgot to reset it going to the grid,” a wide-eyed Coulthard associated. “On the formation lap the fucking factor took off! I needed to get on the brakes and rapidly reprogram [it] on the grid.”

Evolutionary MP4-14 stored the wins coming…
…however by 2000 the competitors with Ferrari was fierce

With F1’s technical laws successfully secure every automotive via to the top of Coulthard’s McLaren tenure was a Mercedes-powered evolution of the earlier version. The 1999 MP4-14 introduced two wins and fourth place general; the 2000 automotive three wins and third place and 2001’s MP4-16 offered a remarkably constant run comprising two wins, eight additional podiums and factors scored in all races bar three occasions he retired from. However this proved inadequate for Coulthard and Hakkinen to withstand the rising dominance of Schumacher and Ferrari.

Coulthard’s wins turned much less frequent as Ferrari started to dominate

One other of McLaren’s patchy runs adopted: single victories in every 2002 and 2003 (his final F1 profession win) however largely extra modest placings as McLaren invariably began a season slowly, then recovered. 2004, Coulthard’s final yr with McLaren, delivered zero wins and tenth place, his lowest championship classification to this point.

DC recollects that in his farewell gig on the 2004 Stars and Vehicles spectacular at Mercedes HQ in Stuttgart he was offered with a West-liveried bicycle – “Which was very good of them” – with crew govt Martin Whitmarsh then remarking, “Get on yer bike…”

“I’ll take Adrian (Newey) with me,’ vowed Coulthard, then. on his solution to be a part of the nascent Pink Bull Racing squad, the place he noticed out the remaining 4 years of his F1 profession. Newey signed with the squad inside a yr, however it took time for the design genius to slip his ft beneath the desk in Milton Keynes, re-arrange the technical division to his exacting requirements and ship his first Pink Bull automotive.

Melbourne was the scene of Coulthard’s final win, in 2003
Troubled MP4-19 yielded no victories for Coulthard

The vitality drinks-owned squad struggled throughout its maiden season. The RB1 was principally a re-liveried Jaguar powered by buyer Cosworth V10s. Coulthard, contemporary from one in every of F1’s {most professional} groups, was unimpressed with what he noticed internally. Certainly, after day one in every of a scheduled two-day maiden take a look at at Jerez he jetted off to fulfill with crew proprietor Dietrich Mateschitz in Austria for severe talks.

David Coulthard, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2005
First Pink Bull was a re-liveried Jaguar

“He defined that he’d already introduced in Christian [Horner] as crew boss. I mentioned ‘there’s some guys there which might be simply wired to the moon in the event that they assume that’s the best way a grand prix crew operates’. He mentioned, ‘Okay, you guys are empowered, go on and make the modifications you should make.’ And it was a superb 4 years.”

That perhaps have been the case by way of his pure enjoyment of the game, however throughout his tenure the crew’s outcomes have been as combined as their engine suppliers. They moved from buyer Cosworths to Ferrari models that have been allegedly the identical as these raced by Michael Schumacher (“I don’t assume they have been, however it wasn’t a foul engine…”) and ultimately to Renault. A works relationship with the French producer was solely inked in 2010.

“We have been simply prospects, so it was ‘you paid your engine you bought X quantity of max energy runs in qualifying’, explains DC. “It was a really completely different relationship for me with an engine producer as a result of at Williams we have been the works Renault crew, at McLaren we have been the works crew, at Pink Bull we have been simply paying the cash.”

Coulthard delivered Pink Bull’s first of many podiums in 2006

Whereas RB1 was properly off the tempo, the Ferrari-powered RB2 delivered third place in Monaco for Coulthard – the crew’s first podium end – however little extra on his solution to twelfth general. By the point the primary Newey-designed Pink Bull, the RB3, hit the grid Coulthard had begun to take inventory of his profession after retiring seven instances in 17 races and scoring no podiums. Concurrently Sebastian Vettel and different hotshots have been climbing the Pink Bull ranks.

When RB4 proved little higher, offering a final podium (in Canada) however sixteenth general, it was time to modify to DTM. For his swansong drive at Interlagos he was permitted to race a one-off livery selling the crew’s ‘Wings for Life’ charity, although his race unluckily ended on the first nook.

Simply three races after Coulthard retired from F1, Pink Bull turned winners along with his substitute, Vettel, on the wheel of an RB5 in China (though the model had gained in 2008 at Monza with Toro Rosso). However Coulthard has no regrets.

He drove some very good equipment to victory throughout his 14 years in F1 and gained a lot respect alongside the best way along with his simple, open type.

First correct Newey Pink Bull arrived in 2007
His F1 swansong in Brazil ended with a crash

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