David Coulthard has named Mika Hakkinen as his favourite team-mate from his 15 seasons in Formula 1 – even if he admits that the Finnish double world champion is 'such an unusual character'.
Following the Brazilian Grand Prix earlier this month, the highly experienced Scot hung up his F1 helmet after no fewer than 246 races, 13 victories, twelve pole positions, 18 fastest laps, 62 rostrum finishes and a staggering 535 points, making him statistically the most successful British driver in the sport's history – and the fourth-most successful outright, behind only multiple title-winners Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.
During his time in the top flight, Coulthard partnered first Damon Hill at Williams, then Hakkinen at McLaren-Mercedes from 1996 until the latter's retirement at the close of the 2001 campaign, making the duo the longest-serving F1 pairing of all time. Following that, 'DC' went on to compete alongside another flying Finn in the shape of Kimi Raikkonen at McLaren, before ending his career at Red Bull Racing, where he drove next to Christian Klien, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Robert Doornbos and, finally, Mark Webber.
“The longest team-mate I had was Mika Hakkinen,” he confirmed in an interview with UK newspaper The Sun
, admitting that he has been 'quite lucky' in terms of who he has driven with and rating the 1998 and 1999 world champion as the best team-mate he had.
“Mika was such an unusual character in the respect that he was clearly very talented and very fast, but he seemed like the ultimate green racing driver. He used so little energy outside of the racing car and didn't get himself involved in the politics or any other events; he just saved his energy, drove the car very quickly and went home.
“Damon Hill was my first team-mate in Formula 1, and it was different periods of our lives. He was ten years older and trying to establish himself as the lead guy and I was coming in with my first opportunity, so we didn't really know each other. I never really had any bad relationships with any of my team-mates.”
Reflecting on his long and successful career at the pinnacle of international motorsport, Coulthard rates the 2000 French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours – a race in which he passed the two Ferraris of Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher, 'who was his usual difficult self', en route
to victory around a circuit on which it is notoriously difficult to overtake – as one of his very finest performances.
Conversely, he laments the errors that saw him crash away potential triumphs in both the 1995 Australian Grand Prix at Adelaide and 1999 European Grand Prix at the Nürburgring as 'pretty disappointing'. Whilst he knows he may never have captured the public's imagination in the way that other British heroes – say Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill and Lewis Hamilton – have done, the Twynholm-born ace is adamant he never raced to be loved.
“My motivation was not to be appreciated,” he underlined. “My motivation was to take the opportunities I had and to try and make the best of them. Inevitably being involved in a sport such as Formula 1 it's very public, so there are those that support you and those that think you don't deserve your position or are negative towards you.