Australian Grand Prix Moments: The Disaster Down Under

Antony Herbert@LeeUwishWritingAnalyst IIIMarch 24, 2010

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 29:  David Coulthard interviews Red Bull Racing drivers Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Mark Webber of Australia during previews to the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit on October 29, 2009 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

It still feels slightly odd that the first Grand Prix of a new season did not begin in Australia.

I always felt a sense of pride and admiration that every year I highlighted my love for the sport by being awake in the early hours to watch the cars hit the track. I would watch the action burst into life as I brushed aside the bags under my eyes.

Originally I began to watch in 1994 when Adelaide was used for the Grand prix down under, and gave us the conclusion as opposed to the start of the racing calender.

Two years later and it had moved to Melbourne and gained the season opener position.
Overtaking opportunities at the track were minimal, but the track gained a quick reputation as a harsh and telling car breaker. The field were thrust onto the grid amongst unknown entities, and the track took many prisoners.

It became commonplace that the result included a lack of complete finishers, gifting those in less capable positions the chances to succeed. Many drivers scored early on in their careers as a consequence, before sadly drifting out of the sport. Christian Klien is a driver that comes to mind.

Bahrain was never going to fulfil the expectations preset by Albert Park therefore.
Retirements were not in abundance and the track offered an easier and less enticing acclimatisation for the drivers.

The season hopefully will kick start in Australia once more, in a follow up to the many memorable moments in the last twenty years.

Of all the occurrences down under none more so come to mind than one of the most embarrassing scenes in the sports illustrious history.

Quite interestingly it involves an incident that was performed by a driver who I would follow throughout the whole of his career.

David Coulthard in the end had something of a love affair with Australia. He made a beauty of a start in 1997, jumping from fourth to first on.

I was 11 at the time and sadly fell asleep after the start. It was in the early hours of the morning. I weirdly awoke right as the winners trophy was being handed out and caught the highlights at a more reasonable hour.

The Scot then received the last of his thirteen wins with a lucky but deserved win in 2003. The victory was gained as a result of a mistake by Montoya in the first sector of the track. Coulthard was hunting him down, so the optimistic follower could ponder the idea that it was Coulthard’s pressure that forced his Colombian rival into a mistake.

It’s hard to imagine that it has now been seven whole years since, with DC drifting to a few credible years at Red Bull and then into retirement. His career was mostly praised when it ended in 2008.

Yet with all the good, we will always remember the bad. Years before Lewis Hamilton clumsily threw his Mclaren into the grass in China, and years before Coulthard himself was caught up in controversial accidents in Belgium, he was seen to establish a rather negative image of himself through a catastrophic error on race day. This was achieved through a minor yet humorous accident in the Australian Grand Prix of 1995.

It was his second full season in Formula 1, and after a successful first campaign where he finished overall third, many were wondering whether Coulthard could be a future champion.

As he headed to the last Grand Prix of Adelaide he qualified second, and seized the perfect opportunity to exit Williams in style by overtaking Hill into the first corner. Throughout the first batch of laps his team mate Hill did not look likely to apply any pressure on the win.

Yet then it all went belly up. With a routine pitstop ahead, spectators were left aghast when Coulthard entered the sharp turn into pits, and crashed straight into the pit wall.
To all who witnessed the event it was clear what had happened. The Scot had simply gone in too fast and eager, and had allowed himself little time to slow down before the inevitable came into fruition. It was an understandable mistake for a driver who had only achieved one win up until that point and he would have been forgiven quite quickly through our sympathy for the inexperienced youngster.

It proved to be a learning experience for Coulthard though, as he appeared more willing to blame the car as opposed to himself. He accused the engine of accelerating due to an idle strategy on it that pushed the car faster forward even if only the brakes were applied.

These claims were obviously ridiculed, and eventually the incident was forgotten as David forged a decent run of years in the sport.

It remains to this day though, one of the most accessible images to recall. It is one that teaches us all that stupid mistakes can and will be made. Yet it is the aftermath which is the true reflection of our potential, and if we can portray greater levels of confidence and ability then we can undo our own pit stop fiasco's.