David Coulthard’s long service in F1 has always been a key reason for his seat at Red Bull – and yesterday he was able to make that experience count at the Circuit de Calalunya.
All 11 current F1 teams were hurrying into post-season testing at Barcelona with the prospect of a new regime for 2008 hanging over them – cars without electronic aids such as traction control.
Coulthard, who started his F1 career as a tester for Williams in 1993 just as the FIA started to crack down on driver aids for the first time, managed to put in the seventh-fastest lap of the day at 1:23.159.
He came home behind the Ferrari and McLaren cars plus Heikki Kovalainen’s Renault and Robert Kubica’s BMW. He was 1.21 seconds behind leader Michael Schumacher.
The team confirmed that he had been running with 2007 electronics but minus traction control and engine braking as he worked on developments for 2008. He took out the RB3-05 chassis and put in 55 laps.
He was joined in the Red Bull garage by F1 debutant Karun Chandhok in the RB3-03. The Indian driver was working on understanding the new electronic control unit that all teams will use.
Chandhok, fresh from a respectable performance in the 2007 GP2 series, put in 40 laps but was unable to score higher than 18th on the fastest-time leaderboard, with a time of 1:24.896.
Yesterday was clearly a day for nostalgia, not innovation.
The team’s official bulletin for the day said: “The world has moved forward almost four weeks since the final round of the 2007 world championship.
“But as the cars took to the track at the Catalunya circuit, Formula 1 itself stepped back in time to the days before electronic driver aids ruled the world.”
And, in another blast from the past, this guy called Schumacher was spotted driving a red car around with a bit of poke to it. Come to think about it, that was somewhat familiar too.
Coulthard was overheard to say how he thought this driver had some talent, and might easily find his way into F1 some day…
• Later, Coulthard was not in a joking mood when he told the German press: “If McLaren needs another driver – Michael would be a fantastic solution.”
He told Bild: “No-one should doubt Michael’s quality for a moment, he hasn’t lost anything. He could make a return to Formula One any time he wants.
“Paul McCartney never forgot how to make good music and Michael has never forgotten how to drive fast cars.”