'At times, I felt like the odd man out'

THIS was the year when grand prix racing ran the gamut of emotions from tragedy and exhilaration to acrimony and frustration, and David Coulthard's eventful if brief season proved a microcosm of the campaign as a whole. While Damon Hill had the r esponsibility of team leadership thrust upon him after Ayrton Senna's death in the San Marino Grand Prix, that same tragedy gave the 23-year-old Scot his big chance as he was propelled suddenly from test driver to race partner for the Briton in the Willi ams-Renault team.

Notwithstanding the cause, it was a dream opportunity for any hungry young racer, and the manner in which he seized his chance marked him out as a driver of rare promise, and the subject of a tug-of-war between Williams and McLaren.

"The day that Ayrton was killed, I was at Silverstone for a Formula 3000 race,'' Coulthard recalled last week. "I've never been one to suggest that you should not compete, but that day if anyone had proposed that we didn't race on the Bank Holiday Monday, I'd have been the first to raise my hand to second it. I finished second, but my mind was elsewhere.

"Once I was driving the Williams my lowest point was in Hungary, where I crashed in qualifying and again when running third in the race. A friend picked me up from the airport afterwards and said I was like a little boy lost. I had started to pull away from Martin Brundle and the pressure was coming off. I was starting to relax again and think about the finish. Maybe my concentration slipped. It's not that I don't want to admit to such mistakes but, genuinely, I don't know how it happened.

"It was disappointing not to finish second at Monza, where I was well within myself, but these things happen. That wasn't my mistake, like it had been in Hungary. I just hate making mistakes.

"With the return of Nigel Mansell, I knew all along he would take the wheel for the last three races but it really hit me immediately after Portugal when I wasn't allowed to do the tyre test that followed. I was really starting to enjoy things. I was on the crest of a wave and it was a body blow. I had to keep a low profile after that and, what with other things that were happening at McLaren, at times I felt like the odd man out.

"The high points were a combination of driving well at Monza, then finishing second in Portugal after leading for the first 18 laps. I don't want to sound too big for my boots, but I stood on the podium very happy for my mechanics and the people who'd supported me, rather than for myself. After all, winning is the only reason we are in this business The minute you finish second you want to be first, especially when you're so close.''

Jackie Stewart was once one of Coulthard's mentors, and there is much of the great triple champion's self-assurance in the young contender. Setting aside Damon Hill's own brilliant graduation you have to go back to the older Scot's first Formula One season in 1965 to find anyone who came in with a similar impact to Coulthard's. He has Stewart's speed and his innate awareness of the way things are in an aggressive world. His steel has been given harder temper by the off-track grievances that have developed since he was "replaced'' for those final three races by Mansell, and his future now looks much more settled.

Despite the acrimony behind the contractual battle, Williams are expected very shortly to confirm Coulthard as Hill's partner for the forthcoming season, after the Contract Recognition Board in Geneva ruled in their favour. Coulthard's management companyhas negotiated less restrictive terms and the incident is now history.

Although Coulthard has yet to win a grand prix, the fact that Williams are prepared to place him above an established fighter such as Mansell says it all. As the Scot prepares for his first full season, the indications are that Hill may have to deal withfar more than just Michael Schumacher's challenge in the months ahead.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum