Sunday July 2nd, 2000
David Coulthard revived his challenge for the drivers' world championship with a masterful victory in Sunday's French Grand Prix. But the Scot then overshadowed his achievement by accusing rival Michael Schumacher of unsporting and dangerous driving after an acrimonious race.
He fought hard with the German and eventually found a way past him. However, Coulthard was so angry at one stage of the race, when Schumacher almost forced him off the track to block a passing move on lap 34, that he shook his fist and raised a single finger in a rude gesture seen by millions of television viewers.
He apologised afterwards, but also launched a scathing verbal attack on Schumacher.
"I won the race and I am delighted about that, but I just don't think Michael is very sporting in the way he drives on the track," said Coulthard.
"I know some people will say that is just sour grapes or whatever and that's what you have to do to win these days, but there is a set of rules and trying to drive people off the circuit is not within those rules...
"As to my gesture, I know it was not a sporting thing for me to do and I apologise for that, but it was a tough weekend for me. I know it was not in keeping with our sport.
"As you can understand, my emotions were running high and I knew that to be in a position to win the championship I had to win here today. I had a clean run at Michael on the outside and equally I felt he drove me wide.
"You could say he had the right to do that because he had the track position, but I think it was a deliberate gesture in trying to run someone wide like that and I was very angry."
Coulthard's on-track relationship with Schumacher has been strained for several years following similar incidents in Argentina in 1998 and at the Belgian Grand Prix in the same season, plus another which upset Schumacher at Imola this year.
"We discussed it all after Imola," said Coulthard. "It was put to us all that you could permit one change of direction on the track, so what happened at the start of this race was within the rules. But I think we need to go further and ask if that one change of direction is okay if the car behind you has to take avoiding action. Is that fair?"
Schumacher himslef said later that he did not see Coulthard's hand or finger signals and also dismissed Coulthard's accusations altogether. He said: "In Japan last year, he pushed me too wide, but I didn't complain about that. It was a good fight today. I believe that is racing and if I am in front I can choose the line. He tried to overtake me and, naturally, I tried to make it difficult for him. To be fair, he was never really ahead of me."
The row overshadowed a race which Schumacher leading from pole for the opening 24 laps before going into the pits. After his first stop, the German regained the lead from Coulthard who pit-stopped on lap 25, but finally allowed the Scot to force his way past him on lap 40. Coulthard then led comfortably all the way to the chequered flag while Schumacher retired, his Ferrari suffering an engine failure, after 59 of the 72 laps.
"Of course, I am disappointed," Schumacher said. "But there is nothing you can do about it..."