Atlas F1 Scotsmen Can't Pass

  by Tom Stahler, U.S.A.

It has been put on constant display for the world to see, in the last two year, that in modern Formula One Scotsmen can't pass. Eleven races into the last World Championship of the millennium, David Coulthard by no means has the stuff that made his predecessors, Jackie Stewart and Jimmy Clark, and fellow CART Highlander Dario Franchitti, championship material. He certainly will not make Mike (Austin Powers) Myers' Scotland Wall of fame.

David Coulthard has proven time and time again that he is incapable of making a competitive pass. One can attribute Coulthard's second place last weekend to patience, as he waited in the wings for Eddie Irvine to make the critical mistake that materialized during the final stages of the Grand Prix of Hungary. As Coulthard stood on the podium and gave the world a smug grin, it seemed obvious that Coulthard has no business driving for the silver arrows of McLaren.

Is it simply because McLaren Chief Ron Dennis does not want to put pressure on Hakkinen, that they don't dump Coulthard and bring up a hard charger or future development, even one such as a Pedro Diniz? Either way, Coulthard has had much of his career handed to him by way of the misfortune of others. Given the opportunity, many others would beat Hakkinen. If Michael Schumacher or Heinz Harald Frentzen were to drive for the supreme 600 person staff that McLaren has to offer, perhaps it would be a completely different story - it very well would have been a different story today, had Schumacher not been at home in Switzerland with his leg up.

Coulthard said in the Hungarian post-race press conference, "In the beginning I was afraid of others making a mistake and getting involved." He was racing against seasoned drivers, Frentzen and Giancarlo Fisichella. Given a similar situation, Hakkinen, Irvine, Schumacher and Barrichello amongst others, in a car that was clearly faster, would have moved up quickly by overtaking in the braking zones. As for Coulthard's post race excuse of identifying front runners lacking experience in competitive passing situations - is no more than showing his lack of ability.

It could be argued that he did in fact finish second - Coulthard should have won the race with the lap times he was putting in while no other cars were anywhere near him on the track. How is it possible to run fast laps in several of this season's races and only be tied with Frentzen for third in the championship points race? Simply put, he is afraid. He lacks the bold edge that separates the men from the boys in this sport. Wouldn't it be depressing to watch a David Coulthard try to compete in a series such as the Australian Touring Car Championships or NASCAR where prima-donas fear to tread?

You have to appreciate a man like Eddie Irvine out there. He is a skillful would-be juvenile delinquent who can speak his mind to the press corps and still step out of the shadow of the now increasingly overrated Michael Schumacher to win back to back Grands Prix. Coulthard had faster cars in both of the races Irvine won, yet he hung back waiting for a mistake. If David was to try making any sort of pass under braking, he seems to lack the experience to do more than spin his teammate around as he did in Austria. At least Hakkinen fought his way back to make the podium. If the roles were reversed, would Coulthard have gone any higher than 15th? Probably not is the resounding answer.

Tom Stahler© 1999 Atlas Formula One Journal.
Send comments to: Terms & Conditions

Tom Stahler has grown up with racing. His father's link to the Beatrice-Lola Formula One team of the mid-eighties and several CART events has continued his interest in motorsport. He has been published in the Road America official programs and numerous newspapers in the United States. He resides in Gurnee, Illinois and competes in SCCA sanctioned sports car events.