Raj Gill catches up with legendary British F1 driver David Coulthard MBE
Leading journalist Raj Gill catches up with the legendary British F1 driver, David Coulthard MBE, at the 8th Annual Grand Prix Ball – which was this year held at the Hurlingham Club in London. The event is very unique and one outstanding feature is that it is the only time that Formula 1 cars are driven in London. And the lucky dinner guests had the enviable position of watching Coulthard race. In between his hosting and racing duties, David took the time to chat about his life, motoring, and the charities that are close to his heart.
Our chat starts off well with both our voices being drowned out thanks to the drivers revving up the F1 cars, which leads David to exclaim: “Bloody formula one cars!”
I tell him that will go down well with his bosses and he just laughs it off. What a fun start to the interview with the phenomenon that is racing car legend David, his sense of humour is evident throughout our chat, and he has no trouble poking fun at himself.
His love of cars started from a very young age, due to his family being in the transport business, and his obsession with Mercedes is something that has stayed with him. His ultimate favourite car is the Mercedes SL Pagode 1971. He says: “My son, Dayton will inherit my 1971 Mercedes 280 SL – it was the first car I every bought at age 23 – with the condition that he is not allowed to sell it. I have fond memories of sitting on my dad’s lap from a very young age at kart races, he would control the pedals and I would be in charge of the steering, and I hope that Dayton continues that passion.”
“Mercedes was very much present in my upbringing, we had a Mercedes 508D karting van, which had bunk beds in it, life on the road started at young age. I got my first car before I turned 18, it was a Renault 5 Turbo, it was a huge big deal for me, the seats reclined all the way back, the less said the better,” he says with a twinkle in his eye, no doubt recalling his boyhood memories, of first loves.
His other great passion are the charities he is involved with, he doesn’t just put his name to them, he is a very active philanthropist, he goes on to explain: “It is great to see the enthusiasm for this event here at the Hurlingham Club, I’m here along with Mark Webber and the team from Wings for Life, which is spinal cord research foundation, we had a clay shoot earlier in the day in West Wickham, I was in the winning team which was very nice. It was a team of five, and I sponsored the team because I wanted to put money back into the foundation rather than just turn up. So we are all doing our bit to raise funds.”
David is also an advocate of safety first and tells me: “I am patron of the Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust, which is about raising awareness to encourage kids to wear bicycle helmets. I always wore all the protection that was necessary in racing and that way was I was protected. And ultimately when I ride a bike I wear a helmet. Even though it is not mandatory to do so in the UK. Lots of families can’t afford it, or don’t really understand the importance of it. We help promote the importance, by going to schools, leaflets, lobbying parliament to try and make it mandatory.”
It is not long before the chat reverts to his first love, his passion for cars, explaining that he is not a big buyer and seller of cars, he says: “I was at McLaren, I didn’t buy anything for a while, there was no need as I had my pick of cars. My wife is an Aston Martin fan so I bought her DB9 convertible, which she loves. In the south of France I keep our 1984 G-Class 280 short wheelbase. I had Mercedes respray it, move the seats back and it is now a proper five-seat restaurant car. I will always be a Mercedes guy. But the car I drive the most is my little Smart Convertible.”
It is time for David to change out of his tuxedo and get ready for the race, he is like super hero disappearing into the back of a van, and appearing moments later, head to toe in racing uniform and not forgetting that all important helmet.