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17 October 2014

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Formula One

David Coulthard's best season 2001

David Coulthard was thrust into Formula One as the direct replacement for legendary Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna in 1994 and, while the Twynholm-born driver cannot claim the title success of his predecessor, he has become one of the country's most recognisable sporting figures.

Coulthard was born in 1971 into a family which was never far away from motors and racing. His father owned his own trucking business and encouraged his son to take pat in karting from the age of eight.

He took to the sport immediately and went on to dominate the under-age classes, winning the Scottish youth honours in his teens. His obvious potential was rewarded with a deal from Paul Stewart Racing and his ascent to Formula One quickly gathered pace.

However, he faced a setback in 1990 – crashing in a race at Spa in Belgium and spending time on the sidelines. This setback perhaps set the tone for a career which, despite its numerous highs, has so far failed to live up to its potential for a variety of reasons.

After recovering from his leg break, Coulthard – who had been bestowed with the honour of being the first McLaren Young Driver of the Year – was given the role of test driver for Ron Dennis's McLaren team.

In addition to his testing duties, he raced in Formula 3 against Rubens Barrichello, a South American whose career eventually followed a similar path to Coulthard's. Barrichello took the drivers' championship in 1991, but Coulthard did enough throughout the course of the season to underline his potential and attract attention.

A move to PSR was largely a failure, although F1 teams were still keen on his talent and he drove further tests for Benetton and Williams.

In the end, Frank Williams decided to give the young Scot a chance and named him as his official test driver and back-up to Senna. When Senna died, at San Marino, Coulthard was promoted and made his debut at Barcelona, finishing a respectable third despite ignition problems.

Coulthard's relationship with Williams was tempestuous and he became unhappy that the team wanted to alternate his appearances with Nigel Mansell. Nevertheless, the off-track distractions did not affect his driving and he finally recorded his first victory in the Portuguese GP at Estoril.

McLaren, impressed by his growing skills and knowing of his unhappiness with life at Williams, moved to sign him up for the 1996 season.

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