The reason for Coulthard's initial sluggishness soon became apparent, however, as the Scot plugged away for two further laps, pushing the envelope to its maximum in search of vital seconds.
The plan worked for, when he rejoined on lap 50, the McLaren enjoyed a couple of seconds advantage over its red rivals. Barrichello rounded the first turn just as DC exited pit-lane, but could do nothing to overhaul the Scot as the new leader quickly brought his tyres up to temperature.
For a few laps, it appeared that the race was now between these two, for Schumacher seemed strangely off the pace. Coulthard has set new fastest laps on the tours between his pit-stop and the Ferraris', and now seemed to have the legs over the man he was chasing in the point stakes.
Whether Schumacher had a problem or not may never be known, but he was soon back on track after a couple of wild moments over the kerbs - and closing on the front two. With lapped traffic again something of a problem, the German was able to hack into the small gap that had grown between himself and his team-mate and, with ten laps to go, the race was back to being a three-way battle.
The path through traffic was admittedly easier than it had been early on, for Pedro de la Rosa, Montoya, and both Minardis had joined Bernoldi, Trulli and the early retirees on the sidelines. One could still have had a part to play, as the luckless Jenson Button's Renault let go at the final corner, spreading a little oil on the road, but thankfully not enough to disturb those fighting at the opposite end of the field.
The scrap lasted until the final lap, with Coulthard manfully resisting the pressure mounted on him by the two Ferraris in his wake. Both Scuderia drivers recorded fastest split times in their pursuit, but Coulthard was having none of it, his steely determination keeping eyes focused firmly on the road ahead and nowhere else. Rounding the final turn, he knew he had it, raising an arm in triumph as, behind him, Schumacher moved smartly passed the slowing Barrichello to carry out vital damage limitation in terms of the championship.
Raikkonen survived his tardy pit-stop to hold on to fourth ahead of Panis, despite the suspicion that he may have passed Luciano Burti under the yellows shown for Button's stricken Benetton, while Verstappen held off the advancing Irvine to give Arrows its first dose of points in 2001.
Coulthard has made something of a habit of scoring podium finishes from lower than expected on the grid, put in that position early in the year by problems in qualifying. Those same troubles raised their head again in Austria but, in the same way, the Scot raised his game to snatch some glory from the jaws of misfortune.
Seventh on the grid does not often provide race winners in Formula One, but Coulthard will accept anything that comes his way. He knows that he has done his time in the role adopted for 2001 by team-mate Hakkinen and, on the 13th of the month, used lucky seven to keep his championship charge on target.
1. David Coulthard
71 laps 1hr 27mins 45.927secs