• Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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David Coulthard: My family values


The racing driver and F1 pundit talks about learning to drive as a child, the death of his sister and his love for his son
My father was born into a family transport business and, as a kid, it was exciting having big trucks to sit in. It wasn’t a kissy-cuddly environment. It was Mother and Father as opposed to Mummy and Daddy. I would shake my father’s hand and kiss my mother on the cheek rather than hug them, but it was a close family unit. My parents were always busy, but in the holidays we went with them on business trips.
My parents didn’t push us at school. But they did believe in social skills: mucking in and helping out. My mother cooked dinner and my father did the dishes along with the nominated son for the day. On a Saturday morning, one of us had to take round the wee hard brush or vacuum cleaner. It was educating us to look after ourselves.
My mother was scared every time I drove. But my father was a Scottish karting champion and bought me my first kart at 11. We were given motorbikes first. My mother would be at the sink and we’d be flying past with no crash helmets on. My brother Duncan was the daredevil who had the speed and bravery, my sister Lynsay had the speed and I had the work ethic.
Because I’ve been so lucky and so driven, I’m not good with the self-pity thing. A low point for the family was burying my sister two years ago. She went through periods of depression and was on medication (Lynsay died of an overdose of a prescription drug). I went with her to counselling, but I couldn’t feel what she felt. As a sportsman in the public eye, I told her she was welcome anywhere I went but on condition that she moved at my pace.
As a teenager, I thought about being married and having children then I started having success in cars so I switched off my mind to anything else. I had girlfriends but didn’t want anything that would emotionally distract me from the job. When I met my wife, Karen [Minier], a TV journalist, she already had a seven-year-old daughter. Some men look for the virginal type but for me it confirmed her mothering skills and ability to be independent.
Karen and I got married because we had a child together and I had no intention of marrying anyone else. We’ve been together 10 years and were married in a register office in Monaco [in 2013]. I don’t want to de-romanticise it, but I don’t subscribe to it being the best day of my life. On the other hand, when I got a call from the school nurse recently saying my son had hurt himself, the fear of a negative conversation immersed my body.
My son, Dayton, is six. No matter where I am in the world, I prioritise coming home to take him to school. I flew back from Australia to do that for two mornings, then went back to Malaysia. When we’re home of an evening, Karen does the cooking and I do the dishes. If I was doing dinner, I’d suggest a takeaway. I don’t want to give two hours to the kitchen when I don’t have a lot of time at home.
I think I’ve only smacked my son’s hand once. I try to reason, and lead by example – and give slightly distracting mini-lectures. I consistently say to him: “If you’re polite and respectful to people, you’ll get almost everything that you hope for.”
I cuddle up with my son and I kiss him on the lips. I hope that continues. I’m not being weird, and there’ll be a point when he doesn’t want that, but I hope he’ll still kiss me on the cheek. I’ve lived 20 years in Monaco and greet friends that way. My father certainly wouldn’t do that, though.