Though he insists he is not one to 'reminisce a great deal', David Coulthard has been reflecting on the highs, lows and changes of his 15-year Formula 1 career - and admits that he might miss the 'adrenaline rush' of sitting on the starting grid when the 2008 campaign gets into gear in Melbourne in March.

The Scot - fourth on the overall list for both number of grand prix starts and points registered - has staked his claim to a place in F1 history by becoming the most successful British driver of all time over the past decade-and-a-half. He has done that by notching up 13 grand prix victories - two of which were on home soil at Silverstone in 1999 and 2000 - twelve pole positions, 18 fastest laps, 62 podium finishes, five top three championship placings and a staggering 535 points.

Though it all ended on a sad note when he was tagged into a spin on only the opening lap of last weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos, the Twynholm-born ace maintains he has no regrets and has thoroughly 'enjoyed the journey'.

"I'm not really someone who reminisces a great deal," he confessed in an interview with BBC Radio Scotland's Sports Weekly programme. "I certainly don't talk about the 'good old days', because I think I'm living those now.

"I've been asked a lot of questions about favourite moments of my career or how did I feel when I started in '94, but it was so long ago I don't really remember the details of it. I've just been enjoying the journey.

"There are a couple of races that really stand out in my mind. The first one was winning the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours in 2000. People will probably remember that I gave Michael Schumacher the finger, and I'm not proud of that action because it's not big or clever, but it was a race full of frustration.

"Michael had tried to push me off the circuit at the start of the grand prix and I dropped to third, and I had to battle hard to get back behind him and eventually pass him and go on to win the race. I was particularly proud of the fact I was able to control somewhat my emotions and fight back to the front.

"The other one was winning Monaco for the second time, because I led from the front. Monaco is a circuit where there is no room for error, it's almost a two-hour race, it's hot, it's physically demanding - and I was able to lead from start-to-finish. It's a track that's known to be particularly challenging for the drivers, so I think if anyone says I wasn't very good as a driver, I would always put Monaco forward as an example of where I was able to win at one of the most difficult circuits."

The argument over just how good Coulthard was is one that the 37-year-old acknowledged had rumbled on right from when he made his debut in the top flight as a replacement for the late, great Ayrton Senna at Williams in the Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona 14 years ago. Though he never went on to lift the sport's ultimate trophy - the Drivers' World Championship - 'DC' points out that for the majority of his career, F1 was dominated by just one man...the one he got the better of that summer's day in mid-France eight years ago.

"I know that opinion is divided as to whether I was any good or not," he mused. "If I'd won the championship that would have taken away any real room for discussion, but the fact is I finished second, and who really remembers the runner-up in the World Cup or the runner-up in the Olympic Games 100m final?

"Ultimately it's all about winning, but I don't think I've unfulfilled in having finished second to the driver who turned out to be the most successful in the history of the sport. He won seven world championships - it was just bad timing for me to be around at the same time as Schumacher."

Unlike the legendary German, however, Coulthard has been fortunate to get through his stint in the uppermost echelon without sustaining any injuries, and whilst he insists accidents are never something that have unduly concerned him - notwithstanding the plane crash in 2000 that killed his two pilots - he did admit that the technology in the sport has left a lasting impression.

"I've never been bothered by the crashes," he stated. "I've always seen them as part-and-parcel of being right on the edge. The safety of these cars nowadays has improved so much from the early nineties when I started that you'd need to be pretty unfortunate for something serious to happen to you, but you can say the same of everyday life - people can cross the street and unfortunately get run down. Life is dangerous, but it's just about making sure you're well-prepared and take all the precautions that are possible.

"So much technology has passed through Formula 1, and in some respects there's less technology involved in the cars we have today than when I started. In the early nineties there were active cars with ABS, traction control, power steering - the cars were kind of floating on hydraulic fluid. Today we have more classic cars in that they have springs and dampers.

"From a software point-of-view the technology has obviously changed fantastically; the control boxes that control the engine and the gearbox and all the systems on the car are not much bigger than a mobile 'phone today, whereas when I started it was more the size of a large backpack! That side of the technology development is something I've always enjoyed and is very exciting.

"Moving into next year, we're going into the phase of the so-called 'green' Formula 1 cars, where they'll have an energy recovery system, and obviously with the price of fuel that everybody is dealing with today it's very much in the public's minds - how can we get more efficient use out of our journeys?"

Indeed, in the name of efficiency and in light of the current credit crunch sweeping the globe, F1 has embarked upon a radical programme of cost-cutting for 2009. Though some - FIA President Max Mosley chiefly amongst them - have expressed fears about the sport's future in such a climate, Coulthard is confident there is no great danger.

"Inevitably in times like this the purse strings are tightened," he reflected, "and that includes marketing. Formula 1 is essentially a marketing business, where the billboards are high-speed racing cars that whizz round the track and are beamed to many televisions around the world.

"At times like this companies that simply can't afford to do that will pull out their sponsorship, whilst larger companies that have a longer-term vision will stay part of Formula 1, because it presents one of the best ways to get your name or product all around the world. Yes, some of the smaller teams might struggle, but ultimately the big teams will pull on through just like in any business. F1 is a business from Monday to Friday, and obviously at the weekends it's a sport."

It is the sporting side of Formula 1 that the Red Bull Racing star will clearly miss the most when the 2009 season dawns - even if he will still drive the car on occasion in his ongoing testing and consultancy role with the Milton Keynes-based concern - but he is adamant he has made the right decision in stepping down when he has done and, with his first child on the way, is now ready to begin another phase of his life...albeit still within the motor racing world.

"I was given a great opportunity by my parents to get started in karting in Scotland back in 1982," he reflected. "I've been involved in racing for 26 years now, ever since my father bought me my first kart when I was eleven-years-old. I was going to race tracks before that as a little boy because he was always passionate about racing and helped to support other Scottish drivers - and that has led to me having a long and, reasonably successful I think, grand prix career.

"There wasn't actually just one thing [that prompted his retirement]; it was a growing feeling from the beginning of the season [regarding] the change in regulations next year, the work that I was able to do outside the car and also the [fact that] opportunities for me at 37-years-old to win grands prix and challenge for the championship were diminishing.

"With Red Bull having eyed a replacement in Sebastian Vettel, it just seemed like the sensible time to be looking more to the future. We made that decision and discussed it with the team in Canada - where funnily enough I scored my best result of the year when I finished third - and then I was able to make that announcement at my home grand prix.

"There are a number of drivers who have families; my family hadn't started obviously until it coincided with the end of my grand prix career, but Karen [Minier - fianc?e] and I have been planning to have children for the last couple of years. It just took a little bit longer and tied in nicely with the end of the season, so it was just good fortune I guess.

"I'm not looking to walk away from motorsport; I've thoroughly enjoyed my journey and want to continue within the sport. I have an ongoing contract with Red Bull where I will be involved in all aspects of the young driver development programme, and I will be helping the grand prix team to continue to grow.

"I see no reason to want to go off and so something else - I'm not going to take a year out and go backpacking around the world or something like that! I'm going to continue very much with the same programme of going to grands prix, working with the team and maybe some other opportunities.

"I guess at the beginning of the 2009 season I might be missing my adrenaline rush, but I'll still test the car from time-to-time and I'll have a son to deal with, so I daresay I'll be dealing with sleepless nights - anyone who's a parent can probably advise me on that! I'm not good at getting up in the middle of the night; I think Karen's going to take that responsibility..."

On the subject of babies, finally, one driver Coulthard has known since he was barely out of nappies is newly-crowned F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton, who he argued 'thoroughly deserves' what he has achieved - and is no longer the 'spotty little teenager' he once was...

"I've known Lewis for a long time," DC concluded. "During my nine years at McLaren, he was part of the young driver programme for seven. I've seen him change from not quite the spotty little teenager, but I suppose the little teenager asking advice to obviously someone now who would never think about asking me for any advice! He's a fantastic racing driver and he thoroughly deserves all the success he's had."


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