Update: David Coulthard has announced that he will retire at the end of the season.
“I would like to announce today my decision to retire from racing in Formula One at the end of this season,” said the Scot in a statement.
“I will remain actively involved in the sport as a consultant to Red Bull Racing focusing on testing and development of the cars. I have an open mind as to whether or not I will compete again in the future, in some other form of motorsport, so I am definitely not hanging up my helmet.”
Coulthard – The Last Hurrah?
Formula One veteran and two-time British GP winner David Coulthard is gearing up for what could be his final assault on the points at Silverstone before the curtains fall on his shimmering 15 year career in motorsport’s premier series much to the heartbreak of his legions of followers.
“That was fantastic. I feel fantastic,” exulted an overjoyed Coulthard after memorably clinching his first victory at the Northamptonshire track in 1999 for McLaren-Mercedes. He would go on to seal victory again the following year making him the only driver to line up on the grid this Sunday with two wins to his name at the British track.
As the Scottish veteran returns to the arena that has been so kind to him for the fifteenth time in his career the fourth with Red Bull Racing the murmurings in the F1 paddock are that he will announce his retirement this weekend, the 60th anniversary of the British Grand Prix.
The Red Bull ace, who at 37 is the oldest and second most experienced driver on the grid, has yet to extend his contract with the Milton Keynes-based outfit, which expires at the end of the year.
Toro Rosso ace Sebastian Vettel is widely believed to be promoted to Red Bull Racing in 2009 in the wake of the sale of the Faenza-based outfit, leaving speculation about Coulthard’s future.
Coulthard admits he is not daunted by the prospect of his career coming to an end this season and he has no concerns about adapting to life outside of Formula One.
“When that moment comes, there you go. That’s the journey of life. You move on to the next thing,” he said. “I am currently a Grand Prix driver, I have been for many seasons, and I am still sitting here as a Grand Prix driver because I enjoy it and I get a buzz from it.”
“There will be a point naturally where that is not going to continue, and boo-hoo. There are a lot worse things that can happen to you and you move on to the next challenge.”
The Scot has been touted as a possible pundit for the BBC next year as the British Broadcaster takes over the responsibility for coverage of Formula One. It has also been muted that he might buy into Toro Rosso and take over as a team owner; however Coulthard has been quick to dismiss the rumours.
“I’m in the middle of a GP season and I have some clear plans but that’s not one of them at the moment,” he said in an interview with The Times. “You can’t go straight from primary school to university, and to presume I could go straight from driving an F1 car would be arrogant.”
“Buying it wouldn’t be the scary thing but finding $200m a year to run it definitely would,” he added.
A less plausible option might be test and third driver role. Coulthard toured the McLaren Technology Centre on Wednesday after winning the top prize in a recent Formula One charity auction. Interestingly, the Scot, who spent nine seasons at McLaren between 1996 and 2004, invited his manager and former McLaren driver Martin Brundle along with him as well as Red Bull colleagues Christian Horner and Adrian Newey.
The men were given a guided tour of the facility by McLaren Group chief operating officer Martin Whitmarsh, followed by a lunch in one of McLaren’s private dining rooms.
“David has always been a popular driver at McLaren and we’ve known him for a long time,” said Whitmarsh. “He’s driven more grands prix for McLaren than any other driver in Formula One history.
“It’s fantastic that he’s put his hand in his own pocket to support this charity auction and it’s great to see him back at Woking. This afternoon showed that we still remain friends with many of our former drivers.”
As for what the Scot can expect results-wise this weekend, former Williams team-mate Damon Hill reckons his best hope for repeating his 1999 and 2000 glory is if it rains – which it is forecasted to do so.
“If it rains he’s always got a chance!” joked the 1996 world champion. “You know how it is, you can only do so well with the equipment – but Red Bull seem to be making good progress actually.”
“Adrian Newey is a great designer, and that car is getting better. They seem to be a good team. I will be very surprised if we see a podium full of British drivers on Sunday, but you should never discount it.”
November’s Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix will be Coulthard’s 247th race weekend. Over the course of his 15 seasons in Formula One the Scot has racked up 13 wins, 62 podiums and 525 points, the latter making him the fourth most successful driver behind Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.