Mon 10 Mar 2008
His career, like every sportsman’s, must come to an end at some point and with DC coming up on his 37th birthday you would have to say that the end will come sooner rather than later.
The man himself won’t entertain any talk of retirement until he really has no other choice, which will probably roll around in July at the earliest as historically it’s around this time that Red Bull tend to announce contract extensions.
As far as Coulthard is concerned I can’t see the retirement decision coming from him, instead I think it would have to be almost forced upon him by the inability to secure a drive for next season - unless his upcoming wedding brings about a rethink on his private life.
So what would it take for Red Bull to consider continuing with the Scotsman rather than promoting Sebastien Bourdais for 2009 as so many seem to be predicting?
Well I think they have benefitted from and really appreciate the work DC has done and continues to do for them behind the scenes, but it’s difficult to comment on that as by it’s very nature, it’s not in the public domain so I’ll focus in the public side of the sport.
The best thing DC could do is go out and win them the Championship, but let’s try to keep this at least half realistic! On testing form McLaren and Ferrari are still out in front so even gaining a podium let alone a solitary race win will prove to be very difficult barring some good luck for DC and bad luck for the McLarens and Ferraris. Plus the other teams they will be competing against - the likes of BMW Sauber, Renault and Williams.
Nobody knows for sure how the restrictions on electronic aids to help the drivers keep their cars on the road will affect them in a race situation - no doubt the early races will be more problematic and they will soon settle in. DC is one of the few drivers who have driven cars in this state before, all the young guns have only ever driven cars as they were last year so will that be an advantage to the older ones? Surely it has to be, although as this is the pinnacle of motorsport you would expect the others to pick it up fairly quickly.
I seem to recall that although DC has never been blisteringly quick in qualifying, he used to come out and make some amazingly good starts no matter where he was on the grid. Over the last few years, with all the gadgets and gizmos on the car basically controlling how the car left the line, the driver has become bit of a passenger in the initial seconds after the lights have gone out. Could the change in regulations bring back these flying starts from DC?
He is often criticised as he is outperformed by his teammate in qualifying, only to do better than him in the race, so some quick starts which propel him past his counterpart by the first corner would help his cause even more.
Perhaps Red Bull extended his contract into this year as a thank you for DC’s help in bringing designer Adrian Newey to the team, and everyone concerned will be hoping Newey has worked some magic this year to produce a fast but also reliable car. Time will tell.
I don’t think it’s just Coulthard’s career at Red Bull that’s under threat though, his teammate Mark Webber hasn’t set the F1 scene on fire lately. It amazes me how people can become “good” without actually doing anything very much - it seems that the media pick someone seemingly at random to hype up and suddenly everyone thinks they are the best thing ever. Webber is a case in point, and over the years he has always had the argument that he was a fast driver but in a slow car - if he still doesn’t produce some goods this year though then perhaps it will be time for him to leave as well as, or maybe even instead of, DC.
This could be a big year for Coulthard, but if it’s to see his career end with a whimper then it won’t be one any of us will want to remember - let’s hope if he is indeed to leave F1 come the end of the season then he is able to go out with a bang.