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Exclusive Interview - Red Bull's David Coulthard 27 Feb 2008

David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing RB4 Formula One Testing, Day Three, Barcelona, Spain, 03 February 2008. World © Patching/Sutton David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing RB4 Formula One Testing, Day Three, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday 21 February 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing RB4 Formula One Testing, Day Three, Barcelona, Spain, 27 February 2008. World © Patching/Sutton David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing RB4 and Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB4 Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, 25 February 2008. World © Moy/Sutton David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing. Formula One Testing, Day Two, Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday 20 February 2008. World © Hartley/Sutton

With just over two weeks to go until the season opener in Melbourne, the majority of teams have been hard at work testing at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya this week. Red Bull are amongst those in action, keen to make the most of the dwindling track time left before March’s Australian race.

One of the biggest questions of 2008 is whether the team’s RB4 will be the stroke of genius everyone is expecting from chief technical officer Adrian Newey or not. Red Bull driver David Coulthard is cautiously optimistic that it is, and back behind the wheel, after a day resting following a neck injury, we caught up with the Scot to find out more…

Q: Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel was in your car on Tuesday. What happened?
David Coulthard:
I felt very good in car but the conditions on the first day were not ideal. Obviously I didn’t warm up enough which led to the trapped nerve that the physio is working on. So I suggested that Sebastian Vettel should get in my car as Sebastien Buemi (Red Bull’s test and reserve driver) has no experience in Formula One, and as we are in the middle of the countdown for Melbourne, I thought that as a team we will gain more having an experienced driver in the car. Sebastien Bourdais was driving the single Toro Rosso, so it was a good use of the driving resource that we have.

Q: Your team mate Mark Webber has been quite excited about the RB4. How would you judge Red Bull’s 2008 challenger?
We had a much better winter than last year, so our preparations are significantly advanced. My benchmark for this year is very clear. You have the winner of the race and you have the guy who is last, and the only time you can be satisfied is when you win - anything else is a step in the team’s development. And as long as I feel that the team is moving forward each year, and closing the gap to the quickest team by hopefully scoring more points, then I feel that we are making progress. As we speak, testing is going on with no points and no tangible results so I prefer to wait until Melbourne. And when we speak on Sunday night after the race I’ll tell you if we are in better shape or I’ll just say ‘ick’!

Q: Last season reliability was a big issue, with the team enduring 14 retirements. Over the winter, it seems that the car has made a great leap forward in terms of consistency. Would you agree?
Yes, we have made a big step forward, so the changes that have been implemented at the factory in regards to the design process and ultimately the manufacturing, have started to show results. Last year we really gave away too many points - that will not happen again.

Q: What do you think are the most interesting differences between the RB4 and its predecessor?
Visually it’s quite different and under the skin it is quite different as well, but it has nothing significantly unique to Formula One. In one way or another, it is similar to what you find up and down the pit lane - but with the added icing of Adrian’s special touch.

Q: What would you identify as the RB4’s weak spots?
Well, ultimately it is not doing the fastest lap times - so that is the weak spot. How do you achieve the fastest lap time? That’s a combination of a number of factors. It is a popular belief that aerodynamics is the most dominant factor in a Formula One car so we have to look at that side very carefully for further improvements on the track.

Q: You recently talked about how all the teams have wind tunnels, skilled people and work hard but that some teams still have an advantage. What do you believe is the formula for a fast car?
I think continuity over a period of years and a winning culture. When we started we had 400 people, now we have 600 and to make them work together and understand each other takes time. You have to crawl before you can run.

Q: Everybody seems to agree that the first four spots on the grid will be occupied by the usual suspects. How do you think the situation behind Ferrari and McLaren will develop? And where do you believe the Red Bulls will fit in?
I think that nothing is agreed right now. My guess is that it will be very tight between Williams and Renault, and probably Toyota. I don’t know where BMW Sauber are right now, if they are slightly in front of us or not. But taking it as given that Ferrari and McLaren have an advantage, that group just mentioned is fighting over fifth to 10th place. We will have to wait for the Melbourne qualifying to see what happens. I would say - let’s go to Oz!

Q: You are about to embark on your 15th season in Formula One racing. You’ve seen it all - are you still as fond of it as ever?
Is that really so! Well, I still love racing - that has not changed in all the years I have been in Formula One. And that will not change.

Q: Your goals must have changed over the years. Before it was surely to win the championship, whereas nowadays is it to make Red Bull a success? Are you both a driver and a consultant for the squad?
Of course, as I don’t have a championship car this year. When I joined Red Bull Racing I knew that the resources would be there and I knew that I could play a part in helping them to develop, whether as a driver or in other areas of my experience. And in the end racing in the front or racing in the middle is still racing.

Q: After the end of this test, the next time you get into the car will be at Melbourne. In Australia the RB4 has to show its true colours. What is your prediction for the race?
If we could qualify in the top ten and score some points it would be a very welcome start to the season. Of course, I would love more but let’s keep our feet on the ground.