Coulthard calls it a day

David Coulthard will retire from Formula 1 racing after this year’s Brazilian Grand Prix, and will be replaced at Red Bull Racing in 2009 by Sebastian Vettel.

Like Michael Schumacher, the Scot will ease into retirement by continuing in a testing and advisory role. He told the RBR management of his decision at the Canadian GP – where he finished a surprise third – but did not make a public announcement until his home event at Silverstone.

“I feel entirely comfortable with the decision because the timing feels absolutely right,” he told Motor Sport. “After 15 seasons and at 37 years old it’s the right time to say let’s use my experience and energy for another area within the team.”

His final outing in Brazil will be Coulthard’s 246th GP start, leaving him fourth on the all-time list. He is also currently the fourth highest points scorer, behind only Schumacher, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. He scored 13 wins with Williams and McLaren.

Vettel’s promotion from sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso comes as no surprise. The German finished fifth in Monaco, and has made the top 10 in qualifying several times. He is regarded as the poster boy of the Red Bull driver programme. It’s clear that RBR hopes he will have the sort of impact that Michael Schumacher had at Benetton and Fernando Alonso at Renault at a similar stage of their careers.

“As you can imagine, I am very happy and pleased that at this time of year I already know what I will be doing next year,” Vettel said. “So far I have always done things step-by-step and obviously now the most important thing is to focus on the remainder of this season.”

The team has also confirmed that Mark Webber’s contract has been extended into 2009.