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Red Bull City Limits, which took place on Saturday March 20, brought Red Bull Racing’s car and crew to Belfast city centre. The driver? 13-time Grand Prix winner David Coulthard. His mission: to show exactly what these machines are made of. Red Bull Reporter sent along selected writer Ben Croucher (who applied via www.redbullreporter.com) who got to attend the event and interview David Coulthard.
Below is the Q&A between Ben Croucher and David Coulthard.
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Ben Croucher talks to David Coulthard at Red Bull City Limits
How much do you enjoy these showcase events in front of the fans?
I always enjoy events like these. As a kid I would have loved to have gone out and seen a Grand Prix car [at an event like this]. I saw a little boy who was three years old – he probably won’t remember today, but there’ll be a picture of him with a Grand Prix car and maybe he’ll be a future Grand Prix driver. So these events are great.
With more tracks being added to the Formula 1 calendar, how important is it to come to places like this to get fans interested in the sport?
I think it is important. It would be obvious to take it to Scotland with me being Scottish driver, but it’s great to be here [in Belfast]. We’ve had a great welcome so I’ve got no complaints.
How exhilarating is it to drive the car on the streets so close to all the barriers?
It’s a real adrenaline rush! It’s a big responsibility because it’s a big, fast, powerful car and this isn’t its typical terrain. It’s actually more difficult to drive it here on the streets than it is on the race track. You’ve got to deal with the bumps and be really careful.
You’ve been with Red Bull Racing since it started in 2005. How satisfying is it to see the progress the team has made in the last five seasons, and what do you put it down to?
It’s been great. [To go] from being a mid-grid team with highly motivated but under-funded people, to being a front-running team that’s highly motivated and well funded, [with people] who know that they have to be creative every single day they go to work. It’s fantastic.
Red Bull has brought some fantastic drivers through its junior team and European driver programme, with the likes of Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Buemi making it into F1. How important is this to have fresh talent coming through and are you slightly jealous of the opportunity they’re getting?
I’m not jealous, no! While you’re feeling jealous, you’re actually missing out on making something happen. I’m old enough to look now and say that some of the younger drivers don’t know how difficult it was, but that’s just the reality of it. The route to Formula 1 is more mapped out than it was. Everybody gets opportunities in life, you’ve just got to take them.
Why did you decide to become a racing driver?
It was through my father. My dad was into racing and he bought me a kart when I was 11. I liked it and off I went.
What excites you most about this season?
Well, I was really excited before Bahrain, but it didn’t turn out to be the best of races. I’m optimistic that the FIA and the drivers will make some improvements and make the racing better.
If you could create a new rule for F1 and try to improve the racing, what would it be and why?
These are fast and sophisticated cars, but the only real mistake the driver can make now is by not going on the power early enough or braking too late. I think if you had a manual gearbox there’s another element. If the driver is under pressure or fatigued, that creates racing and becomes a skill. I tested a DTM recently with a manual box and it made me realise just how big the challenge is.
Did you have any pre-race routines as a driver? What about other drivers – are there crazy superstitions that you know of?
Some of them do – I don’t know what they are because I didn’t pay attention to them, but I always used to get in the car from the left. That was more of a comfort thing due to the seatbelts. When you’ve got two straps between your legs it becomes a bit of a comfort thing but other than that, no big superstitions.
This event here is called City Limits. When in your career have you reached your own limits as a driver, and how scary was it?
Probably in the rain around the streets of Monaco, or the Japanese Grand Prix when you’re driving into walls of spray. In the dry, you’re always on the limit but you always feel in control… until you crash!
You mentioned Monaco and Japan – are they two of your favourite circuits?
Yeah, Suzuka is a fantastic circuit and Monaco is the greatest challenge because there’s just no room for error.
Later on today, you’ll be performing some doughnuts in front of the crowd. Since retiring, is it nice to not have to constantly monitor your diet and do you enjoy the odd pastry or two?
(laughs) Well, my diet is a bit more relaxed than it was but I’ve actually lost weight because I don’t do so much strength work, but it’s fine. Life, if you’re lucky, is long and you have different things in different phases, so I’m into another phase of my life now.
To read Ben’s full write-up of the event please click here.