JUL 18th 2014

David Coulthard talks road cars, F1 and punditry

It wasn’t just cars that Mercedes-AMG unleashed for the press at the Goodwood Motor Circuit yesterday – there was also a certain David Coulthard.

DC is a Mercedes ‘ambassador’, and he makes a good one. The bloke can drive a bit after all – his ambassadorial duty was to demonstrate to the press the SLS Black Series – and he has the inside line on what’s happening in F1. He also has history with Mercedes, not just on the track but in his garage: he has a classic SL at home. As ‘ambassadors’ go DC is totally engaging without ever being cloying.

But then you can make up your own mind about that from the Goodwood Road & Racing interview with DC that follows. We managed to collar him just before he jetted off to Germany where he will be commentating with the BBC team on this weekend’s German Grand Prix at Hockenheim…

David Coulthard

Who do you think is going to win at the weekend?

On speed Lewis Hamilton should. On ‘Hollywood’ it should be Nico Rosberg. It’s the perfect story for Nico: German driver, German Grand Prix, German World Cup, and he’s just got married.

Who are you going for in the championship?

If this was a nine-race championship then Nico is the champion already. He’s had some great grands prix and he’s a great racing driver. (But) you just have this feeling that even though Lewis is a little more vulnerable emotionally he seems to have that extra burst of speed.

How long will it take the others to catch Mercedes?

Mercedes has really capitalised on the new engine technology this year. You have to go back to Williams or McLaren periods in the past for any team to be so dominant. But another year is another story. And next year I think the others could be right there.

What’s the best thing about commentating?

I can’t say I am the most comfortable commentator. I am a fan of the sport, always have been, and have my point of view, but I have never been that cocky or confident a person. Some people say things with absolute conviction but I have never been like that. Murray Walker was the best. He’s fantastic.  Such an enthusiastic broadcasting voice and so well liked.

I don’t mean to be humble here but I am very much at the beginning of that whole (commentating) journey. I am enjoying sharing my enthusiasm for the sport with a younger generation – rather than talking to the experts who know more than I do.

Are you still enjoying your driving?

All stopped now, in my second year of retirement from racing. I loved my time as a racing driver but I have no desire to race any more.

What’s the best thing about the SLS AMG?

It’s the raw speed, and performance backed up by braking – you don’t just get where you are going very quickly, it stops – and that’s something a lot of high performance road cars don’t get right.

The SLS is among the last of a naturally-aspirated breed, turbos from now on – are you a fan?

I have never raced with a turbo. For a road car, I really don’t mind how the power is made as long as the response is there. There’s nothing worse than having a moment of doubt when you want to accelerate. It doesn’t matter if it’s a road car at 60mph or a grand prix car at 200mph, it’s about reaction and response – the feeling that you are in control rather than it being in control of you.

I think the engine is the absolute uncelebrated hero of any car. A great handling car with an underpowered engine is not quite right, is it?

What about the new AMG GT, have you driven it yet? 

I haven’t, but I have a couple of racing buddies who have driven it. I am sure it is impressive. Having had my experience of DTM  I can’t say I ever really felt comfortable driving on the limit in a GT car, a saloon or touring car because I am so finely tuned, so dialled in, to single seaters – cars where if you do that, the car does this.

As fantastic as they are, these cars (GT, SLS) are not cars that fill my daily life as a dad and ex-grand prix driver. I don’t have one in my garage.

So what do you have in your garage?

An E63 AMG, and a GL-class – I’ve got a step daughter, a son, a nanny, a dog, a tall wife and a lot of baggage, and the GL is for moving the masses. I have a Smart which is my favourite car driving around Monaco. I also have my 1971 280SL which I have had for 19 years.

The last tank of petrol left in the world is yours – where would you put it?

If I was driving on my own it would go into a racing car. All road cars are compromised in some way. I would love to have driven in F1 from 1989 (the first year after the ban on turbos) when you got all those big V8s, V10s and V12s with manual gearboxes – big, fast racing cars without a great deal of efficiency but with lots of downforce. It was a period of real bravery, and real consequence if you got it wrong. Circuits then were pretty unforgiving, kerbs were literally kerb stones around Monaco. I think this was man and machine in perfect harmony, with a great deal of racing respect. I’d use my last tank of fuel in one of them.

Photography: Charlie Magee

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