On the eve of the British GP weekend, David Coulthard chose to announce his retirement from Formula 1, effective at the end of this season. He said that now is the best time, as he can look back upon his years in the sport with fond memories of being competitive, rather than limping out on a bad year.
After 14 years within the sport, Coulthard is the oldest man on the grid, and whilst he's still competitive, it has long been suspected that his retirement was due. Speculation has been mounting in the paddock, and Coulthard has been loathe to talk about his future previous to this weekend. However, now it is out in the open, he seems relaxed and happy with the decision.
Coulthard's F1 career began in 1994, after a year testing for Williams. After the death of Ayrton Senna, he got a race seat alongside Damon Hill, a drive which he shared with Nigel Mansell. In 1996, he moved to McLaren, where he stayed for the next nine years. By 2005, his results with McLaren were not what was hoped by him or the team, and he moved to the newly formed Red Bull Racing. At that point he was joined by inexperienced drivers, but in 2007, Mark Webber joined the team to form the oldest pairing on the grid. Throughout his career he has won 13 races.
His future is as yet uncertain. Coulthard says he does not intend to race in another series, although he will never say never. At the moment, he is contracted to remain with Red Bull as a consultant, much in the way Schumacher remains associated with Ferrari. This will no doubt mean the occasional testing role and appearances on the pit wall. With the new rules in place for 2009, Coulthard will have much more experience on slick tyres than his fellow drivers.
Which leads us onto the speculation over who will replace him at Red Bull. At the moment, it is looking likely that Sebastian Vettel will move up to the seat from sister team Toro Rosso. Coulthard himself says that he would prefer the young driver to take his place, believing him to have what it takes. For now, though, we should sit back and enjoy Coulthard's last few races in the sport, before obsessing over who will be the next to race for Red Bull.