David Coulthard recalls brutal Michael Schumacher terms of Ferrari offer

Jamie Woodhouse
David Coulthard and Michael Schumacher in discussion at the 2004 San Marino Grand Prix.

David Coulthard and Michael Schumacher in discussion.

David Coulthard revealed that he spoke with then Ferrari team boss Jean Todt while a McLaren driver, but could not accept the contractual clause that he must move over for Michael Schumacher.

Coulthard raced for the McLaren team between 1996-2004, during which time he claimed 12 of his 13 career grand prix wins, while also playing a key role in their 1998 Constructors’ Championship triumph.

Coulthard remained loyal to McLaren throughout that period, though one team did prove enough of an allure to pull him into a meeting with their team boss, that being the iconic Ferrari outfit.

David Coulthard could not accept Michael Schumacher yield clause

Speaking on the Formula For Success podcast, Coulthard recalled meeting with Ferrari boss Todt over the possibility of him making the move to Ferrari.

But, while McLaren’s terms never made him the defined number two driver, he would have been exactly that under the offer Ferrari put on the table, and would have found himself obliged to move over for Schumacher if he came up behind him while in the top four.

Schumacher became a Ferrari icon in their period of F1 dominance from the late ’90s into the early 2000s, Ferrari winning six Constructors’ titles in a row between 1999-2004, while Schumacher won five Drivers’ titles in that time, taking his overall tally to seven.

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Asked by his podcast co-star, former F1 team boss Eddie Jordan, whether he spoke to any other teams while at McLaren, Coulthard replied: “I did. I met with Jean Todt in Paris in his apartment, to talk about the potential to drive for Ferrari.

“And my recollection of the contract offered was basically a number two contract, which, despite whatever anyone can now conclude about my career, at that time, I still felt that I wasn’t going to sign anything other than equal opportunity.

“And so essentially, if I was running fourth and Michael was fifth, then I had to move over and all the way right up to if I was leading. And I just couldn’t agree to signing to that.

“And all credit to Ron [Dennis] and McLaren, the contract they offered me was always equal opportunity. And although there was a clause that said you had to accept the instructions of the team principal, in whatever circumstance it might be, largely speaking, I was given a fair and equal opportunity to crack on and try and see how good I could develop my skills.

“So that was the only team really I spoke to during my nine years at McLaren.”

Coulthard became the first Red Bull driver after his McLaren departure, racing for the team until his retirement at the end of 2008.

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