There aren't too many Formula 1 drivers who end their careers without an overinflated opinion of their own ability. David Coulthard, who drove at the top level from 1994 to 2008, is one of the few who didn't.
In his second career, in the media, Coulthard is very honest - to the point of self-deprecation - about his skills during his first metier.
During that 15-year career at the sport's pinnacle, he went wheel to wheel with great champions such as Michael Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton.
From his 246 starts with Williams, McLaren and Red Bull, he won 13 times with 12 pole positions and 18 fastest laps. DC finished second in the world championship to Schumacher in 2001, and scored 535 points in total.
That's pretty much top-of-the-heap good, but he admits that he wasn't in the league of the great. So who better to ask...
What makes the difference between the great and the good?
DC: "It's certainly not application because I worked hard. I put my training hours in, I worked with my engineers, I did everything that was asked of me and a lot of things that were not. That's why I was able to retire, comfortable in my mind, not having a problem acknowledging the great drivers as opposed to the good ones.
Coulthard remains in the paddock in his new TV life © XPB
"I've got some buddies who are ex-drivers who find it hard to acknowledge, who are not as good as they like to imagine they were, but we're all different and that's the journey of life."
You enjoyed taking on Hakkinen and Schumacher, you proved you could overtake them and, on your day, could come out on top. How could you not do that across a period of time in terms of putting a title together?
"That's what makes these guys the greats of the sport. The highly talented probably wouldn't be able to explain to you why they're so consistent, they just are.
"I know it's not linked to how you feel, because I remember winning at Spa, where Mika and I just touched at the first corner and then I pissed off into the distance... I'd been up all night coughing blood and went to the track in a misery!
"But it didn't affect my ability to drive the car in the zone, and there were other days I'd come in feeling like a million dollars and I've wanted to just hide when I've seen my lap times.
"So it's a very difficult thing to understand, but it didn't seem to be attached to emotion. Sometimes you see Lewis doesn't look that happy but he's on pole position. It's because something else in his life is not making him happy but it doesn't affect his ability to drive.
Berger had a tough time off-track in mid-1997, then returned and won at Hockenheim © LAT
"I remember Gerhard Berger winning at Hockenheim just a week after he'd come back from an illness and his father had been killed, yet he put a performance in like he hadn't done all year."
We're currently in a golden period of hugely impressive drivers. How do you think they stack up against the all-time greats?
"I know we're talking different eras but I have the simple view, which is if you had Fangio, Clark, Prost and Senna being brought up today, fed the proper things, so they were trained and focused on becoming professional drivers, as a group it would be just like how we compare Hamilton, Alonso, Vettel and Raikkonen today.
"They're my top four - and just below that you have Jenson and the emerging talents that can join that elite group in the future or else they'll be just very good racing drivers.
"You race whatever you have. Those guys won in karting, and what is the relationship between a go-kart and a Formula 1 car? Four wheels and an engine, that's it. No suspension, no aerodynamics, it's just the pure vehicle, man and machine.
"The vehicle interaction, the dynamics and how the driver sets the car up become a whole new technical aspect of the game that wasn't there in karting. But the good were good there, and the good are still good here - but it's the greats that somehow manage to get the maximum out of it."
When did you realise Vettel would be a great?
Coulthard got an early look at Vettel in Red Bull testing in 2008 © XPB
"Although I was never his team-mate within the Red Bull/Toro Rosso alliance, in my last year, 2008, in the pre-season, I tweaked my neck on a kerb.
"I phoned Christian [Horner] and said, 'Seb's here testing the Toro Rosso, you should get him in the car because you're looking at him anyway.' So we got Seb out of the Toro Rosso and stuck him in the Red Bull that I had driven already so I got to see differences in driving.
The quicker driver is not just quick everywhere - it's not like he goes out of the pitlane 1km/h faster.
"There will be areas in any good driver, anyone who's in F1, with particular styles of driving a corner that suit them better than others."
When you were team-mates with Hakkinen at McLaren, was there an area where you were actually better than him?
"I tended to always be better on the brakes than Mika. Part of that was I was a right-foot braker for most of my career. I went very late to left-foot braking, the last four or five years.
"The benefit of right-foot braking is you don't overlap on fuelling so you could run less fuel, because you were either on the throttle or on the brake - it was very difficult to do both!
"In the time you go, 'I think I'll brake now,' from that mental decision, the couple of milliseconds you've physically got your lump of meat off one pedal onto the other, you've gone another 10 metres.
"You gain lap time on the way in and it's very difficult to outaccelerate your team-mate when you've got the same horsepower and drag level, so where can you go quicker than your team-mate? By entry speed and apex speed.
"Any fool can go barrelling into a corner and never make the apex and gain half a second on your lap delta and then you'll lose six tenths coming out, so there's a net loss.
"The exceptional drivers, the simple answer is they have a God-given, or whatever you want to believe, ability to feel the limit of adhesion.
Coulthard reckons his style suited Monaco - where he won twice © XPB
"On straights we can all go as quickly as each other, there's no skill set at that. I don't think it's that they're particularly good at braking from my experience, but it's rolling off the brake and that transitional phase.
"People talk a lot about lines and that sort of thing, and all of that's relevant stuff, but it's very difficult to know from the outside whether someone is still feeling the brake or whether they're off the brake.
"The thing for me seems to be they're able to carry a little bit more speed at the key phase, which is the last part of braking, because the first part is all much of a muchness as long as you don't lock up.
"The first part of throttle application, you can be a bit earlier but if you're late to full power it hasn't gained you anything. It's not about how early you're on the power, it's about at what point you can release the maximum amount of power for the right amount of grip before the car's left the corner.
"They just have great skills in that area. It has to be a feel thing. I felt comfortable on street circuits, which some drivers feel uncomfortable with. I was not particularly good on these wide, open circuits where it was difficult to judge where the limit was.
"When I knew the limits I could operate well within them because you know you can't go any further than that.
"Places like Turn 8 in Turkey, I'd be like 'where's the limit?' I could take the corner as quickly as my team-mate, but it didn't have the same emotion of control.
"These guys take the best bits of everything and put it together. Who knows why Nadal or Federer is so strong? There are such small differences in these guys."
Your former manager Martin Brundle told us recently that he thought there 'wasn't enough bastard in you' - that you essentially lacked that ruthless streak. Do you agree with that?
Hakkinen: 'not a bastard', according to DC © LAT
"It would be easy to agree... but I don't think Mika was a bastard. Mika was very straightforward, he knows what he wants. He's actually quite risk-averse and, in the end, he stopped racing in F1 because he got a little bit of a scare.
"Kimi's not a bastard; he's just annoyingly quick. When we were team-mates he'd be sleeping in the back of a truck, wake up, go in the car and - bam! - lap time.
"You hear stories of Berger testing all winter at McLaren and Senna turns up and within five laps he's gone as fast as him. They just have speed.
"Was Prost a bastard? He won four world titles and he might not have been to everyone's taste but I worked with him as a test driver, I've spent time with him - he's not got a bad bone in his body.
"Did he ever do the Michael/Rubens pitwall incident in Budapest? He got pushed into the pitwall [at Estoril by Senna], so he might have done the turn-in a bit shallower at Suzuka...
"Did Nigel Mansell ever do anything 'bastard' on track? I don't think so. Nigel had an innate ability to be the ultimate underdog and fighter and deliver.
"So I wouldn't agree that you have to be a bastard because there's enough evidence that these people weren't bastards. Was Fangio ever seen as a bastard, or was he just seen as being extremely talented?"
What about the psychology of the situation, because you were in a position at McLaren where you were made to feel a clear number two. Martin said he got you to write him a letter about how you felt. What did it say about how you felt at that time?
"It's very difficult to live the experience - even if you're the driver manager you're not living the experience. Martin wasn't at every test, he wasn't in the meetings. He did the contracts and had driven for the team, but he wasn't in the debriefs so he had to take my word for it.
Coulthard quickly discovered Hakkinen's place in McLaren's affection when they teamed up for 1996 © LAT
"I went through certain examples like in Melbourne 1996 when I first raced for the team. I sat in the debrief with Steve Hallam, Mark Slade, Mika, Pat Fry, myself and Dave Redding.
"Ron Dennis comes in and I instinctively stood up to shake his hand because he's the governor, he's my new boss.
"He blanks me, sits down and goes, 'What are we doing?' Steve Hallam explained what 'we' were doing and then he goes, 'What are they doing?' 'They' was 'us' - there was no one else in the room.
"I had to explain that to Martin so I said, 'Explain this to me, I don't understand this 'us' and 'them''. But then I found out that Ron was affiliated more to Steve and Mika, and Dave Ryan was on my side. It inevitably played out like that.
"It was good for me because Dave was a good team manager, so I had that strength of personality, but I never captured Ron right from the word go.
"As time has played out, Mika was an exceptional talent, very quick and had performance for quite a short period because after his accident it focused him on delivering and then retiring. He should have kept going for longer but he ran out of energy and commitment, but it was the right decision for McLaren to do that.
"But equally, I am comfortable with the fact that I was there for nine seasons.
"I know that team intimately and they didn't give me nine seasons because I'm Ron's lovechild! They did it because I kept working hard every year to try to overcome and to try to make the system work for me.
"I've got no regrets from that period and I'm comfortable with the fact that, occasionally, I was able to genuinely beat someone who won a couple of world titles in the same car.
"It's more difficult to compare when you beat someone in a different car, but I had some good battles with Michael and some cheeky little passes here and there - which didn't happen because I missed my braking point! They happened because they were planned and I could see a weakness and I took the opportunity."
If you had a reset button, is there any time to which you would go back to and do something a bit differently?
The Jerez 1997 shuffle ended with Hakkinen getting a win, Villeneuve getting a title and Coulthard just a podium © LAT
"You can't change your personality. In Jerez '97, Ron had made that deal with Frank [Williams], which none of us knew anything about, that if we helped Williams in their quest to beat Ferrari they wouldn't get in the way of helping McLaren. Ron would probably still deny it today.
"That's what happened, then they asked me to move over.
"Apparently, I was running behind Mika and they told him to come in to clear the way for Jacques Villeneuve but that meant I jumped him at the pitstop.
"I see it differently because I was right with him and they wanted him to be realigned for 20 laps and then tell me to move over. Eventually Dave Ryan, who was on my side, said, 'Look, you're compromising your position within the team', which I saw as another way of saying 'you'll get fired' so I moved over and Mika won the race.
"Then there was that ridiculous finish where I let him past and Berger almost overtakes as Jacques slows down.
"I remember explaining immediately afterwards to Heidi, my girlfriend at the time, and Peter Windsor was standing there. Ron walks up and says we can't say anything, and Heidi turned around to Ron and said, 'You're a f**king asshole.' And then Ron just walked off, he didn't react.
"There were all sorts of fun and games that went on at that time. And it took energy, time and emotion. I could have ignored that instruction, but they were paying me to do a job and I needed the opportunity to do the job.
"Then there was Melbourne '98 where the car was unreliable and we agreed a format where it was initially suggested for qualifying, but Mika was pretty handy at that so I said it should be the first corner because I figured even if I'd been outqualified I still had a fighting chance down to the first corner.
"As it happened, we were first and second by [over] half a second, I didn't manage to outrun him and that was it. Then Mika did his pitstop because Mark Slade said 'cool your brakes', and because he was deaf in one ear he claims he thought he said 'pit now'.
"So I ended up in front and they wanted me to change around and I chose to do that in front of the pits.
Read more from Coulthard in AUTOSPORT magazine
Ron said, 'Why didn't you do it more quietly somewhere else?' And I said, 'It's my career as well. It needs to be known I'm moving over otherwise it looks like I'm being beaten.'"
Was it hard to deal with the fact that Mika was that bit quicker over a single lap?
"It was difficult. You could see what you needed from the car that would give you that time, but the difference was you needed a car change to deliver that time.
"The cars are not exactly the same. There were days he wasn't performing even though he was exceptional, and I would outqualify him, but he was more often able to deal with the compromise of what he had and deliver the lap.
"When I had everything aligned I was able to be on pole. But he had that ability to accept a compromise - that made a big difference."
The March 13 issue of AUTOSPORT magazine features an extended version of this interview, including his reflections on racing with, arguing with, and finishing second to Michael Schumacher