Exclusive interview with Red Bulls David Coulthard 20 Jul 2007
David Coulthard's contract extension with Red Bull Racing did not come as much of a surprise - team owner Dietrich Mateschitz has obviously been impressed with Coulthards efforts over the past three seasons.
And with the Scots rekindled working relationship with uber-designer Adrian Newey only a year old, the decision was pretty straightforward.
Here, Coulthard looks ahead to a bright 2008, reveals his thoughts on the arrival of Geoff Willis as technical director and discusses the impact an upgraded RB3 may have on the teams chances this season
Q: Now that your race drive for 2008 is secure, are you relieved?
David Coulthard: I knew about it already some months before and it was just a question of when would be the best time to make an announcement. Dietrich and I had a conversation some time ago where we verbally agreed that we continue. From then on, it was just a question of doing the paperwork again, but because I had the verbal agreement I had no reason to doubt it because he is a man of his word, which is a quite rare quality.
Q: It means its time to pull up your sleeves again and begin work for next year. What is high on the priority list?
DC: At the moment its to get the maximum out of this season snd simultaneously to make sure that we are well prepared for 2008. It is obvious that we are not going to win the championship this year - that is for sure - so everything that we do between now and when we start building the RB4 is to get all the ingredients together and get as much relevant information to the new recruits like Geoff Willis to get us the best development time possible.
Q: What is the state of the RB4? Has it already been designed?
DC: The concept is already there, of course, but aero design will not be ready till late this year, so it will be an evolving process. In fact, the car will be an evolution of the RB3 - with a hopefully successful modified aero package.
Q: Your balance sheet for the season looks rather lopsided - nine races and five retirements. You cannot be too happy about that
DC: No, definitely not. It is disappointing. We had to change the task for 2007 and look to the future by identifying the areas that fail and re-design them. We have been overtaken a little by Toyota and Renault (teams that we were in front of at the beginning of the year) and now we need to focus on the next development.
Q: Your fifth place in Spain gave a hint of what the RB3 is capable of on a perfect day. When will we see another such day?
DC: It is not impossible. But honestly, the top six places are fixed most of the time by Ferrari, McLaren and BMW. Then it is a question of who is taking over seventh and eighth place and that could be Toyota, Honda, Williams, ourselves - there are a lot of people trying to scrap for points so you need to find that half a second to make sure to challenge first Williams and also BMW. But in this business you have to be optimistic and critical as well, to look closely at the faults that came up along the way and learn from them. In some cases we simply have not learned fast enough.
Q: That brings us to the signing of Geoff Willis as technical director. What do you expect the team will gain from his input?
DC: Geoff and Adrian (Newey) have worked together in the past. I think there is good reason to think that he will add substantially to the development of the car in conjunction with the other designers and engineers. We need those kind of brains and we need to make sure that not everything is relying on one person - because a person needs a holiday sometimes and we have to make sure that the department functions. Willis was with Honda when they had their most successful time, finishing second in the constructors' championship, so let's give him some time to settle in and judge him on his efforts.
Q: But isn't his signing just another example of the inbreeding, which is becoming so prevalent in Formula One racing?
DC: It is such a specific business, so it is always a risk to take in new people from the aircraft industry as Formula One has its own special challenges. So what you tend to have is what you see - a bit of inbreeding - people going from team to team and it seems more than it used to be years ago. It must be fantastic to be one of those designers who have a disagreement with their company, then go on gardening leave for five months and then come back. As a driver you don't have that luxury. I have been in this business for 14 years - we do get a little time off in the winter, but that's all. The next time I have five months off it will be in addition to the rest of my life off.
Q: Red Bull Racing announced they would introduce a substantial upgrade for the Turkish Grand Prix. So what are the team hoping for at the European race?
DC: I have not seen it so let's wait till Turkey. All I hope is that it will add extra performance to the car and I really do hope that it is a big step forward because other teams will also introduce upgrades. My expectations for this weekend? I have an open mind, but based on the experiences of the past races it will be difficult to score points. It might work if we have a good qualifying, but otherwise it will be very close in the points area.