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16 October 2014

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Formula One

David Coulthard's best season 2001

His move to the up-and-coming team could – and probably should – have made him world champion. However, he was team-mate of Finnish driver Mika Hakkinen and, as thus, was eventually shunted into a secondary role.

This was not evident in their first season, as they both remained fairly close in the championship, although neither won a race.

In 1997 Coulthard edged ahead of his colleague, winning the Australian and Italian GP's en route to a 36-point finish.

In 1998, their third season together, Hakkinen emerged as McLaren's top man and because of this Coulthard was often subject to team orders and passed up the opportunity to win on several occasions just to ensure that he gained valuable points in the championship race.

One controversial example of this was during the '98 season opener in Australia when he pulled over to let Hakkinen claim the first full points of the campaign.

The Finn won the World Championship that year and the following season, with Coulthard slipping down the pecking order to fourth in 1999.

The start of the new Millenium was to prove traumatic and saw the beginning of his, and McLaren's, decline. Coulthard began steadily, tasting victory in the British GP, but less than a week later was involved in a near-fatal plane crash at a Lyon airfield.

His light aircraft was heading for Nice with five passengers on board, including his then girlfriend Heidi Winchelski, but experienced problems and had to make a crash landing. The pilots were instantly killed, but Coulthard and the passengers miraculously escaped from the burning wreckage through a broken window.

This life-changing experience gave the Scot a new determination and he was back on the track less than a month later, reaffirming his place as one of the steeliest characters in sport with a stunning win at his favourite track, Monaco.

That was probably his finest moment and one which endeared him to motor racing fans the world over. The years since have been blighted by inconsistency and poor form caused mainly by the advancement of the other teams and Michael Schumacher's complete dominance.

However, the chequered flag has not been raised yet for Coulthard – as his impressive fourth place Australian GP finish for his new team, Red Bull Racing, proved and with a new, reliable car behind him there are bound to be plenty of miles left yet.

Written by: Robert Thomson

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