Scottish driver David Coulthard has long been considered motor racing royalty, having chalked up an impressive tally of wins in his lengthy career behind the wheel, which wrapped up in 2008. Since leaving the track, he’s been a prolific commentator track-side, and a very active member of the greater racing community.
Before he makes his way to Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix next week, we chatted with David about his ambassador role with Heineken, their clever (and effective) advertising campaign to discourage drink-driving, and his predictions for the rest of the season.
Just straight in, I’d like if you could start by telling us a bit about what you’ve been up to since you stepped away from life behind the wheel.
“I did actually have a little turn in the German touring cars for two seasons, which is definitely a niche sport, and that is popular in Germany but wouldn’t be known elsewhere, driving for Mercedes.
But, for the most part I’ve been building my production business, which now covers Formula 1 for British TV. I’m continuing to do the Model Tour with the Grand Prix as a commentator … very lucky to work with brands like Heineken and Mercedes and Red Bull and high end brands like that, that follow you having ex-racing drivers.
On the books and you know quite frankly, I’ve continued to live the dream (laughing) because I think anyone who can add a little in and around the sport that will do for pure pleasure I think is incredibly lucky.
Let’s talk about the advertising campaign with Heineken–the whole drinking and driving thing, they’ve kind of addressed that message head on. Can you talk a little bit about your involvement with Heineken as a brand?
Yeah. I think that it’s a fantastic thing, it’s a global brand, it’s a big well known company in that respect, but I think that if you actually look at the … and you get the chance then you look at the culture of how the company operates out of Amsterdam it has still got that sort of family feel and I think that therefore it has this moral judgement and responsibility of a good family and therefore everything that extends throughout all of the territories is about making those hard decisions … putting front and centre that they’re advertising around Formula 1 the fact that if you drink never drive.
A classic marketeer may suggest that that’s giving up the opportunity to send another product message out there, but I think that the brave decision to recognise that there is a real need to educate people–you want people to come together and if they’re going to choose to have an alcoholic beer or a non alcoholic beer, you want to drink responsibly.
I particularly enjoy the fact that they sort of put the social responsibility front and centre because, not that I’m getting on any particular high horse, but I just look at the way I’ve lived my life and you know, not perfect, but I’m certainly someone that likes to conform, follow rules and regulations as a sportsperson, feel very strongly that it’s not a case of winning at all costs it’s about winning fairly and about following defined rules that have been put in place.
There’s a lot of, sort of, moral similarities in the way I like to go about things and the judgement they made, which in a lot of large corporations isn’t necessarily the top priority. First priority would be, ‘how do we sell more beer?’.
People seem to respect that message.
Oh absolutely. They absolutely do. I’m a village boy from 350 people in the southwest of Scotland. It could be a small village in Australia. My background is a very much a farming, salt of the earth type people and I’ve grown into travelling the world, first as a driver and now in the role I do today, but the values that I have and the things I cherish in terms of interactions with people are still based on my childhood and therefore I expect people to do the right thing.
Will you be making the trip to Australia this year for the GP?
Yep. I will be there. I have been coming to Australia actually since I was 16 since I first raced there in karting. And then I was there competing in Formula 1 for 15 seasons, lucky enough to win the Australian Grand Prix a couple of times.
I’ve always thought if you’re going to travel that far you may as well come back with a trophy. And in my various roles including commentary for British TV … there’s a number of events for Heineken which is always great fun and also the Australian Grand Prix Corporation do a fantastic job. They really know how to maximise the time they have at Albert Park, it’s really a weekend festival.
We’re obviously very proud of our boy Daniel Ricciardo, how do you rate his chances this season for a win on home-turf?
Well, I think on paper [his chances] are better than this time last year because the continued development of the relationship with Red Bull Racing and Renault, they won a few Grand Prix’s between Max his teammate and Daniel last season. Mercedes have been able to dominate the last few years but [Red Bull] are pushing hard. So, it’s really a question of not whether Daniel’s got the skills or whether Red Bull can design the car, which is just about to be launched, but it’s more of a question of whether Renault have been able to develop and deliver more horsepower because they’ve been lacking in that department.
I’m talking to you from Monaco, a number of the drivers are based here including Daniel, and he’s the real deal. I look at these … you know he’s in his mid 20’s now … he’s not a young man in terms of the sport but I just marvel at how prepared these guys are nowadays and how focused and how hungry [they are] … I started in Formula 1 when I was 24, I think Daniel was about 19 or 20 when he started, so they’re arriving in the sport much younger, but they’re just groomed to professionalism.
I think he’s a great asset to Australia, I think he’s a great asset for Formula 1. I would love to see him win his home Grand Prix. It’s something that my old teammate Mark Webber struggled to do despite winning Grand Prix’s around the globe.
Given all the professionalism you’ve just mentioned, has he ever made you drink out of his shoe?
I was doing the podium interviews but Lance Stroll was also in the podium so in anticipation of Daniel doing a shoey I actually got down and got his shoe off and suggested that Lance Stroll have a drink from it so I just thought avert the attention.
I like Daniel, he’s a good lad, drinking champagne from anyone’s shoe though … I’d rather just open a Heineken and have a nice cold beer.
I just want to finish up talking a little bit about the innovation in the engines– the engines are a lot smaller, a lot more powerful than they used to be … do you think that there’ll be a fully electric car in the future, on the grid?
I think it’s possible, but right now I think that the Formula 1, and still in racing, the majority of road cars and manufacturers are going for small cylinder, turbo charged, efficient internal combustion engines. Yeah of course as the world evolves and the reliance on fossil fuels is frowned upon, then Formula 1 will evolve. I think there’ll continue to be competition in racing and there’ll continue to be a sport called Formula 1, or however you call it, that is the fastest form of circuit racing in the world.
That’s what Formula 1 represents and that’s why it attracts the biggest audience, because I think that whether you really appreciate the racing or not, I think that most people are attracted to the latest and greatest technology. Right now you do have Formula E, an all electric championship, and it’s gaining good traction and the manufacturers are getting involved, but of course, people don’t just tune in to it in the millions because it’s called Formula E and on the face of it it’s not putting Co2 into the air.
There’s other issues in terms of how you dispose of the batteries, which are quite volatile. Life right now is not perfect. We consume natural products and we put waste gases, whether it just be through breathing oxygen or whether it be through cars and everything else that we have, and we’ve got to manage that. So I think that there is a social responsibility from Formula 1 and I think that the reason why they’ve gone for a smaller cylinder, turbo charged engine over the last few years is to try and be in step with that and in line with what the manufacturers are doing for the road cars.
Quite frankly I’m as curious as anyone else to see how it develops over the next 10 years, 20 years, you know I’ve got a 9 year old son who does some karting and says he wants to be a racing driver and I can’t give him the crystal ball of what he’ll be racing in the future if at all but I’m curious to see what that might be.
If you want to make to make the most of your Grand Prix weekend, make sure to check out Heineken Saturday which has a pretty epic line up including the likes of the Black Eyed Peas DJ Set with Apl.de.ap and Taboo, Luciana, Young Franco and Thandi Phoenix. Get your tickets at the link below.
Following a successful debut last year, Heineken® Saturday will return on Saturday 24 March at the Formula 1® 2018 Rolex Australian Grand Prix with a stellar line up showcasing top Australian and International artists, including the highly anticipated Black Eyed Peas DJ Set featuring Apl.de.ap and Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas.
Heineken® Saturday’s line-up includes UK star Luciana, Brisbane’s DJ/producer Young Franco with singer/songwriter Thandi Phoenix and local artistsNite Theory featuring DJ producer Andy Murphy.