McLaren's Coulthard warns of deadly dangers in Formula 1

  • Other Sport
  • Sunday, 06 Jul 2003

MAGNY-COURS (France): David Coulthard fears a Formula One fatality if young drivers fail to act responsibly on the track. 

Speaking at the French Grand Prix, the Scot also accepted for the first time that he was to blame for a 1998 collision in Belgium that left a raging Michael Schumacher accusing the McLaren driver of trying to kill him. 

Coulthard was comparing that incident with one last week when he almost ploughed into the back of Spaniard Fernando Alonso’s Renault at the European Grand Prix. 

Alonso denied ‘brake testing’ Coulthard, by slowing early to throw his rival off, but the Briton felt the whole story had not been told. 

“It could have been a much more severe accident,” he said, citing previous examples of track collisions including the 2001 Australian Grand Prix when a marshal died after Jacques Villeneuve’s BAR flew over Ralf Schumacher’s Williams. 

“I was that close to getting one of those,” said Coulthard, talking to a group of reporters. “As sure as we are all sitting here, there will be a fatality in motor sport at some time in the future. 

“Let’s hope it’s not any time soon and that it never happens. But it’s a dangerous business and you can’t just brush these things under the carpet.” 

At Spa in 1998, Schumacher’s Ferrari ploughed into Coulthard’s car in heavy spray while the German was leading and trying to lap Coulthard. The Scot vehemently denied he had braked early at the time. 

“I’m not doing a Fernando-beating thing,” said Coulthard. “But I realised on reflection...when Michael ran into the back of me, his reaction was that I’d brake tested him or tried to kill him and all that sort of thing. 

“The stewards looked at the data and I hadn’t braked, so it was just all brushed under the carpet. 

“The reality is that I lifted to let him pass me, but I lifted in heavy spray on the racing line. You should never do that. I would never do that now. 

“In 1998, I didn’t have the experience and the knowledge, and I had never had someone run into the back of me.  

“And because someone pushes you, you react. So you act as though ‘I didn’t do that,’” he said. 

“The minute I knew he was there, and I was told by the team that he was and was trying to allow him to pass me, I should have made a smarter decision.” 

Coulthard said he had learnt from the experience and that drivers like Alonso would have to learn as well. 

“The risk is that it could have been a very dangerous accident for Michael and Nuerburgring could have been a very dangerous accident for me,” he said. 

“Eventually, somewhere down the line, eight or 10 years from now, a young guy will come in and it will happen to Fernando and then he will feel slightly different about it.” 

Coulthard was asked whether he had told Schumacher what really happened all those years ago. “No, because the penny has only dropped since Nuerburgring,” he replied. 

That last grand prix was the second time this year that Alonso has been mired in controversy. 

In Brazil, the 21-year-old ended the race early when he ploughed into wreckage on the track, despite warning flags. The Spaniard still took third place. 

Coulthard, who had just made a pitstop and might have won rather than finishing fourth, was bitterly disappointed. 

“I hit the bar when I got back to the hotel and was put to bed in a hell of a state,” he recalled. “Not that I think its clever to drink heavily as that kind of response, but what can you do? You can’t punch someone. 

“I often think boxers have a great position to be in because, if someone hits you and it hurts, you’ve got the opportunity to punch the bastard back.” – Reuters 

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