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Coulthard Revs Up Austin

Red Bull Racing icon brings the roar of F1 to the Capitol

By Richard Whittaker, 1:05PM, Sat. Aug. 20, 2011

Davey on the track: Red Bull Racing staff head to get David Coulthard out of the car after this morning's brief film shoot behind the Capitol
Davey on the track: Red Bull Racing staff head to get David Coulthard out of the car after this morning's brief film shoot behind the Capitol
Photo by Richard Whittaker

If you were downtown this morning, you may have heard the distinctive buzzing roar of a Formula One engine. That was the sound of Red Bull Racing shooting some footage for future publicity. Impressive as it was to see the machinery in action, it was retired driver David Coulthard who wowed the fans.

It was a simple but potentially iconic shot: The Red Bull car, making a pass down Congress from 17th, towards the Capitol, and taking a right toward Colorado. Even though this was not a real public event, a small crowd had gathered and Coulthard gave them a little bit of a display, pulling donuts and sending up a plume of smoking rubber.

After the cameras stopped rolling, the applause died down and Coulthard unbuckled from the car, he explained why the Austin Grand Prix is so vital to the sport. "To have a Formula One world championship, you've got to be in America," he said.

As for the recent controversy about the new provisional calendar, moving Austin to the end of the 2012 season, Coulthard was confident that an agreement could be reached between F1 Management and the teams. "There's always that tipping point where it becomes less cost effective because you've got to employee more people. But from what I have understood, talking to others, they think they can comfortably do 20, 21 Grand Prixs. Logistically, it's just a matter of packing the freight up and sending it on a plane. So whether you're flying it on a jumbo ten hours to where the next venue happens to be, or sticking it on a truck and driving it ten hours to the next venue, doesn't really change anything providing the facilities when you get there are good enough."

That puts a little more emphasis on how prepared the Circuit of the Americas is to handle the teams' needs. However, Coulthard said he had faith in project creator Tavo Hellmund: "He drove race cars back when I was coming up through the lower formulas, so you have someone that gets European racing." As for the circuit, he added, "I have no doubt whatsoever that this will be a success. They've got a ten year plan, a Tilke-designed track with some elevation changes. The drivers, I'm sure, will like it."

The last time F1 had a base in the US was the ill-fated run in Indianapolis, which started with high hopes on both sides but flamed out badly. Coulthard admitted, "We left the States on slightly bad terms because of that last race, with only four cars actually racing." When word came that the new United States Grand Prix was coming to a city with little motorsports history, his thoughts were, "OK, Austin, Texas, where's the link? How does that work? Having been here now, I get the fact that there's a big European influence here. It's geographically a great location for not only South America but to cover the rest of the major population mass that you have in the states." His experience in Austin has made him more convinced of this being a good fit: While other cities are NASCAR-or-nothing, "what they seem to do here is appreciate all the great sports events they've got, but they have an openness to what the Europeans like, or what people in Asia are enjoying."

Even though Coulthard has retired from F1, he is still synonymous with the sport. The Scottish driver spent 17 years in the cockpit: First as a test driver for Williams, then stepping up to fill the seat so tragically emptied by the death of Ayrton Senna. He spent nine years as part of the McLaren powerhouse, where he became a fixture on the winner's podium (a lot of British F1 fans call him the best driver to never take the title.) He was pivotal in the development of Red Bull Racing, heading up their driving team from their inaugural 2005 season before shifting into the testing seat in 2009. After only five years, they have become the team to beat, with Sebastian Vettel taking the 2010 driver's championship, and the engineers at Red Bull-Renault snagging the constructor's championship. "I'm feeling a little bit proud because I had a finger print in that development for the first four years. I think it's great for Formula One that it's not just the same old McLaren, Ferrari or Renault winning championships. What this does confirm is that you don't have to be a major manufacturer to be successful. What you need is good funding and good people and the power of the right guys to get on and do the job."

The shoot has already packed up for the day, but if you head to the Bob Bullock Museum, the car will be on display out front until 2pm today, Aug. 20.

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