David Coulthard has spoken vociferously in defence of the under-threat British Grand Prix, though he acknowledged the need for the sport to move with the times as more and more new countries vie for the right to hold a race.
Both FIA President Max Mosley and Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone have been scathing in their criticism of Silverstone as an appropriate venue for a grand prix in recent years, making no effort to hide the fact that Britain's regular slot on the season calendar is far from watertight. There has been a British Grand Prix every year without exception since the inception of the world championship all the way back in 1950, and Coulthard argued that to lose it would be madness.
“To not have a British Grand Prix would be bizarre,” claimed the 36-year-old Scot, twice a winner of the race himself, “given so much motorsport is based in the UK. If software and computers are based in Silicon Valley in the US, then we have to recognise that motorsport is based here.
“When I first went there in the late 80s and early 90s to watch the grand prix, we used to camp and waddle around in the mud. It wasn't very glamorous, but it's impossible to imagine not having a British Grand Prix.
“At the end of the day, though, motorsport is a business and it has to be financially successful. The main money comes from TV rather than spectators at the track, and as the sport's popularity continues to grow there are more and more countries that want to publicise themselves in the best way they can, and there's no better way than F1.”
Coulthard also added his voice to the debate over the impact the ban on traction control would have during the forthcoming campaign, raising question marks over safety and highlighting the need for an acceptable level of risk whilst at the same time predicting it would in fact be the consequent lack of engine braking that would likely prove the biggest factor out on the track. The Red Bull Racing star has been competing in the top flight for well over a decade now, but he denied that experience would hand him any advantage in terms of adapting to the changes once the season gets underway.
“Through the time I've been driving F1 cars there have been a lot of changes,” the veteran of 228 grand prix stars underlined. “When I started testing in 1991 and 1992 they were active cars with traction control, ABS and slick tyres – lots of gadgets. The only thing that's remained the same during the time I've been in F1 is the name; everything else has changed. Now we have grooved tyres and 2.4-litre V8 engines, but even with the restrictions they are still the fastest cars around closed circuits.
“On entries I think we will see more mistakes and more cars running wide, but you have an in-built traction control, where if the car is getting sideways, you know you're losing time so of course you lift. If you have spell check on your computer you use it; if you don't then you do it the old-fashioned way. I think the quick guys are the quick guys irrespective of the technology that there is.
“F1 cars are designed to race primarily in dry conditions. I think we need to appreciate that when we take away the driver aids that make it safer in those conditions, we are going to see big accidents. We need to make the circuit directors understand the conditions in which these cars should run.
“We saw really difficult conditions in Fuji last year and we were lucky no one got hurt, but that was helped a great deal by the fact we had traction control. The worst thing that can happen is to hit standing water at high speed, and then you're the captain of a ship rather than a race car driver. At Adelaide in 1991 such an undoubtedly great driver as [Ayrton] Senna piled into [Martin] Brundle in the rain, and [Nigel] Mansell put it into the wall. We want to have good racing and put on a great show, but we have to move with the times.”