13-time grand prix winner David Coulthard had “a bit of history” with 2016 World Champion Nico Rosberg, bubbling over when he blew his top at Rosberg as Max Verstappen and fellow F1 drivers could only observe in awkward silence.
While their respective F1 careers largely played out in different generations, Coulthard and Rosberg did find themselves on the F1 grid together for the 2006, 2007 and 2008 seasons, Coulthard at Red Bull and Rosberg with Williams.
The season-ending 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix brought the curtain down on Coulthard’s F1 career, though he went out with the wrong kind of bang, Rosberg spinning Coulthard at the start before a whack from Rosberg’s Williams team-mate Kazuki Nakajima confirmed Coulthard’s DNF. Rosberg’s reluctance to take accountability for this planted the seed.
David Coulthard ‘flipped his chips’ on Nico Rosberg at airport
While Rosberg continued to race in F1 all the way through to the end of 2016, Coulthard transitioned into punditry work, though with them both living in Monaco alongside several other drivers, a flight home from Japan one year saw tempers flare between Coulthard and Rosberg, as Verstappen recently reminded Coulthard.
Speaking on the Formula For Success podcast, Coulthard said Verstappen brought this story up when he was speaking to the three-time World Champion and his father Jos at the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP, Coulthard explaining Rosberg “struck a nerve” with a comment that made Coulthard out to be some “sneaky tabloid journalist”.
“He did spin me around at my last Grand Prix in Brazil in the Senna Esses,” said Coulthard of Rosberg. “And then as I’m sitting there, watching the field drive past me, his team-mate Nakajima then crashed into me and I was out.
“So I did feel a little bit aggrieved and I went to see him afterwards, and he wasn’t particularly owning anything for the fact that he spun me around, so we had a bit of history there.
“And I was actually talking with Max Verstappen and his father Jos in Abu Dhabi, and for whatever reason, Nico came up in conversation where there was a flight back from Japan and a bunch of us were on that flight via Dubai.
“I think Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz was going from Dubai to Madrid, Max, myself and I forget who else, but it was a group of us all flying back after the race.
“And we get to Nice and as we’re just waiting for our baggage, Nico said to me, ‘Hey DC, by the way, remember, everything we’ve discussed is off the record’. And it touched a nerve. I don’t know what he thought I was as an ex-driver, but he obviously thought that as a current driver, that I was some kind of tabloid journalist and I was sneaking away all these stories we’ve been sharing.
“And I don’t remember him actually sharing anything interesting at all, because as a sort of quiet man away from the racetrack, I think I have a much more colourful past, so I was probably bringing a lot more stories to the table.
“Anyway, it touched a nerve and my neck changed colour and I flipped my chips is the expression we would have and Max was recalling the fact that everyone just stood there in silence as I go off on one at Nico, and he’s going, ‘Well, I don’t understand’ and I’m like, ‘Well that’s the problem Nico, you don’t understand!'”
Fortunately, Coulthard said he and Rosberg have since “moved on from that point”, Rosberg even borrowing Coulthard’s 280 SL Mercedes car for his wedding.
“Anyway, as I’m sure Nico will be aware of this segment of the podcast, we’ve moved on from that point,” Coulthard continued.
“He did borrow my 280 SL Mercedes for his wedding, which I was very happy for him to to do so. He has asked if he can borrow a kilt for a Scottish wedding that he’s going to, which I’ve got several, I’m very happy to lend him a kilt. So we’ve moved on from some difficult moments.”
Nico Rosberg ‘matured into life’ in F1 retirement
As for why he feels relations have improved with Rosberg since his F1 retirement, that coming as a surprise just days after he beat Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton to the 2016 World Championship, Coulthard said it is easy for a driver like Rosberg, son of World Champion Keke Rosberg and battling now seven-time champion Hamilton, to become “blinkered”.
But now out of that high-pressure environment and retired with World Championship success to his name, Coulthard feels Rosberg has “matured into life”.
“I think it’s fair to recognise that Nico sometimes sees things a bit differently to the majority,” said Coulthard.
“That doesn’t make him a bad person, he was a brilliant champion, of course, and unbelievable what he did alongside Lewis.
“But I think he’s matured into his life in retirement in a way that maybe when you’re so blinkered as a driver and coming up as a son of a World Champion, and alongside Lewis for so many years, and then finally overcoming it, he’s earned his stripes. I’ve got tremendous respect for his championship and what he achieved and I think he’s matured into life.”
Hamilton, now with George Russell as his Mercedes team-mate, has his sights set on returning to the title scene in F1 2024 as he chases what would be a record-breaking eighth World Championship, having not tasted victory since the 2021 Saudi Arabian GP.