Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Coulthard began karting at an early age, graduating to Formula Ford in 1989. His performance was so impressive that he won the first ever McLaren/Autosport Young Driver of the Year award. In 1990, he suffered a broken leg at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, yet still came back the following year to win Formula 3 races at Zandvoort, Netherlands and Macau, China. In 1992, he raced in the Formula 3000 series, finishing ninth, and in 1993 he improved to third best.
In 1994, Coulthard was a test driver for the Williams Formula One team when the team's star driver, three-time World Champion Ayrton Senna, was killed in a single-car crash during the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola. Coulthard, along with former champion Nigel Mansell, assumed Senna's race seat at Williams for the remainder of the season. David became a full-time driver for Williams in 1995, and he won his first grand prix that year in Portugal. He finished an impressive third in the drivers championship that year, despite being the "second" Williams driver (behind teammate Damon Hill).
In 1996, Coulthard contracted with McLaren to drive alongside future champion Mika Häkkinen. His first season with McLaren was unremarkable, as the Mercedes-powered team struggled to find speed. Yet in 1997, in only his second year with McLaren, he finished the drivers championship tied with Jean Alesi for third place (after the disqualification of Michael Schumacher). In 1998, the McLaren was consistently the fastest car on track, and Coulthard greatly contributed to McLaren's constructor championship that year. In 1999, a combination of under-performance and bad luck saw him finish the season in fourth place, as McLaren lost the constructor title to Ferrari. In 2000, he was involved in a tight battle for the driver championship with Schumacher and Häkkinen, but he eventually fell out of contention into a disappointing third place finish. In 2001 he finished the year in second place, but with barely half the points (65) tallied by runaway winner Schumacher (123).
Coulthard's subsequent years at McLaren, from 2002 through 2004, were disappointing as well, as he was regularly out-paced by younger teammate Kimi Räikkönen. Many of Coulthard's critics argue that his decline began in 2003, when the FIA introduced the single-lap qualifying format, causing David to freeze up (i.e. develop stage-fright) during his hot lap. With the announcement that Juan Pablo Montoya was to join McLaren in 2005 alongside Räikkönen, 2004 was to be Coulthard's last year with the team. A poor ninth place finish in the final 2004 standings (24 points, equal with the injured Ralf Schumacher) hadn't helped Coulthard's cause for 2005 either. However, he was signed by Red Bull Racing, who were attracted by Coulthard's experience, and is teamed with the inexperienced Christian Klien.
Among active F1 drivers, Coulthard has the second most wins (13) behind Schumacher. Coulthard is the highest-scoring British driver ever with 483 points (as of the 2005 Malaysian Grand Prix), beating Nigel Mansell's previous record of 482 points.
Coulthard, along with his personal trainer and then-fiancee Heidi Wichlinski, escaped death in a May, 2000 plane crash. The Learjet in which they were travelling developed engine trouble, and crashed while attempting to land at Lyon-Salotas airport near Lyon, France. While Coulthard luckily received only minor injuries, the front of the aircraft disintegrated upon impact, killing both pilots. Coulthard and Wichlinski broke off their engagement in early 2001; according to tabloid reports, he was associated with a number of women during this time period. However, in a BBC interview, Coulthard vigorously denied these claims, stating that the tabloid reports were "out of date and inaccurate."
Formula 1 results
- 1994: 8th, 14 points (Williams)
- 1995: 3rd, 49 points (Williams)
- 1996: 7th, 18 points (McLaren)
- 1997: 3rd, 36 points (McLaren)
- 1998: 3rd, 56 points (McLaren)
- 1999: 4th, 48 points (McLaren)
- 2000: 3rd, 73 points (McLaren)
- 2001: 2nd, 65 points (McLaren)
- 2002: 5th, 41 points (McLaren)
- 2003: 7th, 51 points (McLaren)
- 2004: 9th, 24 points (McLaren)
Podiums and wins
- 1994: Estoril 2nd
- 1995: Interlagos 2nd, Magny Cours 3rd, Silverstone 3rd, Hockenheim 2nd, Hungaroring 2nd, Estoril 1st, Aida 2nd
- 1996: Nurburgring 3rd, Monte Carlo 2nd
- 1997: Melbourne 1st, Monza 1st, A1 Ring 2nd, Jerez 2nd
- 1998: Melbourne 2nd, Interlagos 2nd, Imola 1st, Catalunya 2nd, A1 Ring 2nd, Hockenheim 2nd, Hungaroring 2nd, Nurburgring 3rd, Suzuka 3rd
- 1999: Imola 2nd, Catalunya 2nd, Silverstone 1st, A1 Ring 2nd, Hungaroring 2nd, Spa 1st
- 2000: Imola 3rd, Silverstone 1st, Catalunya 2nd, Nurburgring 3rd, Monte Carlo 1st, Magny Cours 1st, A1 Ring 2nd, Hockenheim 3rd, Hungaroring 3rd, Suzuka 3rd, Sepang 2nd
- 2001: Melbourne 2nd, Sepang 3rd, Interlagos 1st, Imola 2nd, A1 Ring 1st, Nurburgring 3rd, Hungaroring 3rd, Spa 2nd, Indianapolis 3rd, Suzuka 3rd
- 2002: Interlagos 3rd, Catalunya 3rd, Monte Carlo 1st, Montreal 2nd, Magny Cours 3rd, Indianapolis 3rd
- 2003: Melbourne 1st, Hockenheim 2nd, Suzuka 3rd
- 2004: (none)
- Official website
- Statistics at planet-f1.com
- Statistics at f1db.com
- BBC article on plane crash
- Interview with Coulthard, mentions breakup.
- Reuters - Coulthard breaks British record in Malaysia
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