Former Formula One racing driver David Couthard spoke with motomom just before heading to Australia to commentate with the BBC at the 2014 Australian Grand Prix. Coulthard won 13 Grand Prix races during his 15 season career as a Williams, McLaren and Red Bull driver. Here, Couthard answers 28 questions about how he got started in karting, commentating, being a father, and life after racing.
MotoMom: Why did you start karting in the first place? What was the appeal? Did that change for you over the years and when you made the move from karts to cars?
DC: I got into karting through my father as he had raced and won the Scottish Championship. His father died when he was 14, so with no family support he stopped. But he always retained his love of racing. That [love of racing] was passed into the family with my brother and sister having motorbikes and karts as kids. I was the only one who had the focus and determination to keep competing.
MM: You’re from a little village in Scotland, was there much racing around when you were growing up? Where did the passion come from?
DC: There are actually a lot of kart tracks in the UK, mainly old war time airfields. The closest was 1 hour away, it was called The Cults or the Stranraer Kart club. This is where I started racing, receiving best novice at my first race. It should be noted that I was probably the only novice and I did finish 1 lap down on the winner!!
MM: Who would you say you took the most guidance from? Was there someone that was paramount in helping you move towards your racing goals?
DC: My father was instrumental in giving me support, guidance and a bollocking when he didn’t think I was taking it seriously enough. He knows relatively little about cars and engineering but he understands hard work and commitment towards a goal. Above all else though he taught me how to interact with others.
MM: Racing requires a lot of money, how did you generate the funds needed?
DC: Early funding came form my father, then through Jackie Stewarts son’s team; Paul Stewart Racing, which after 3 years led to a test drive with Williams F1 team. The rest is documented.
MM: What tips would you give young drivers looking for sponsorship to help them follow their dreams?
DC: Be clear on what you are doing. Be clear on what you need. Be clear on what you will return. Simply put, don’t waste peoples valuable time. If you don’t know where, when, how, then the chances are the person you are selling to won’t either. Commitment isn’t just a word, it’s a lifestyle which will lead you towards maximizing your potential.
MM: At the height of your racing career what did a typical day/week look like for you?
DC: 9am training cardio, 12:30 lunch, afternoon comunictae with team and engineers to make sure we were all heading the same direction, 17:00 gym strength session, 20:00 dinner, 22:00 fall in bed exhausted. Everyday thereafter, repeat!
MM: What is the standout skill or technique that takes a driver from being good to great? Is it visual skills, physical stamina, personality traits, mental focus? What makes one driver better than another?
DC: I don’t believe there is one simple answer, you need the skills finely tuned through practice and the last bit is commitment. That said Kimi Raikenen doesn’t seem as physically committed as Alonso but they achieve success behind the wheel so the truth is probably more about DNA skills than the last bit of physical preparation. I didn’t have the alpha DNA so I had to work harder on developing other strengths.
MM: Can you describe your workout schedule during your peak racing days and how did it evolve/change from your early days in racing?
DC: As mentioned above it was groundhog day but that’s what it took to know I hadn’t left anything undiscovered in my quest to succeed. You can only have this level of commitment when life affords you 100% focus which means little time for family and friends.
MM: You’ve described racing as being “selfish” in the past, in that you can’t think about anything else at that particular moment. Do you think that the best drivers are all a little bit selfish in that regard? Is this “selfishness” a requirement to win?
MM: Describe your first F1 win, what did it feel like?
DC: So long ago I can’t really remember! Probably more relief than anything else but for sure a real high. Everybody loves a winner not least the winner themselves!
MM: How would you describe David Coulthard the father, the husband, the friend, vs David Coulthard the driver?
DC: Today, less selfish, more open and understanding of others but actually less patience for BS as my work/family balance doesn’t allow for wasting heartbeats the way it did when I was younger.
MM: What does a typical day/week consist of now?
DC: I still like to exercise so basic home day is;
0700 son jumps on my head.
0830 deliver son to school.
0900 go cycling to Italy with some other middle aged men in Lycra.
1230 Lunch with family.
1800 home for family time, dinner, bedtime stories.
2200 collapse into bed.
A travelling day is of course dependant on whether it’s F1 broadcasting or working with my other brand contracts with AMG Mercedes, Red Bull, TW Steel Watches, Hugo Boss, UBS bank etc.
MM: What else are you passionate about?
DC: Life, family, friends.
MM: What went through your mind when you decided to move away from it all?
DC: I was mentally tired and therefore ready after 15 years of pushing to step away and let the next generation do their thing.
MM: What skills do you need for broadcasting?
DC: Passion, and I suppose some knowledge of your sport. The rest I am still learning.
MM: What do you enjoy most about commentating with the BBC?
DC: Continuing to be part of a team and I enjoy being at racetracks soaking up the atmosphere.
MM: What do you think about when you are alone in your car?
DC: I don’t like long car journeys, I feel trapped, so I prefer flying and walking through airports.
MM: What makes you uncomfortable?
DC: Being stuck in traffic.
MM: Favorite movie? Favorite food? Favorite music?
DC: Nothing specific, whatever makes me feel good at the time.
MM: What would you say is the biggest misunderstanding about you?
DC: That I’m “too nice to be a winner.”
MM: What is the coolest thing you’ve ever done? (I’m guessing that flying with the Royal Air Force is right up there?) Awesome video by the way.
DC: Correct. But basically my life has been an amazing journey from a small village in the south west of Scotland to living in Monaco, the world tour, and the people I’ve met have made it an amazing life, so far.
Watch the video here:
MM: You “whooped” in a car when you got to drive Jim Clark’s lotus and you said “you’re not just driving it, your’ living it.” What made you “whoop” out loud in that instance?
DC: Pure joy and exhilaration through realizing I was driving history. A car is a car irrespective of the period and we humans like pushing the limits.
Watch the video here:
MM: How did becoming a father change you? How do you feel about allowing your son to follow in your footsteps?
DC: I will be happy with whatever decisions Dayton makes as long as he is polite and respectful. If he wants to race for fun, no problem. If he wants to race to win then he has to understand commitment and focus. Some of that I would be able to help with and the rest he would define by living in his time with the opportunities that his journey has brought him. Above all I wish for him a safe and successful journey through life. Success is defined by the individual although historically we tend to think of success as winning something public.
MM: I’m assuming your son will get involved in karting as you did at a young age, what do you think are the most important steps parents can take when getting their kids involved in motorsport.
DC: Create the opportunity, guide and help where possible, and set them free to show them that they have the individual skills to succeed in competition.
MM: What scares you?
DC: The dark
MM: What is your most prized possession?
DC: Nothing. I like my cars and trophies but if they all burned tomorrow nothing is that important to me beyond the obvious. Family and friends are what enriches life not possesions.
MM: You wrote a beautiful piece in the Telegraph about Michael Schumacher after his skiing crash. In it you say; “The awful thing is that so often it takes something like this before we say what we truly feel about someone.” I think most of us would agree with this. I also think a lot of us are struck by the irony of the fact that Schumacher is fighting his toughest battle and dealing with his most crippling injury from, of all things, a skiing accident. What kind of impact has this had on you?
DC: It is a stark reminder of living for today. Only push boundaries that are worth pushing and accept when it’s time to slow down.
Read the full article here:
MM: Anything else you would like people to know?
DC: I am very domesticated and would make a good butler or cleaner!!
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