F1 Rumors - news ahead of the headlines

31st March, 1999

Jackie Stewart - Man and Driver

by Julie Gates

Someone quite special was born on 11th June 1939 in Dumbarton, Scotland. Little did his friends and family know that he would become one of Formula One's all-time greats.

Formula One was not Jackie's first career. His brother, Jimmy, was a local hero racing for Ecurie Ecosse, and Jackie planned to follow suit. However, after Jimmy was involved in an accident at Le Mans and injured, their parents (wealthy Jaguar dealers) discouraged Jackie and he took up target shooting.

Jackie was a natural and before long he made a name for himself, becoming a member of The Royal Shooting Team. He marginally missed a place in the 1960 Olympics, which is when he reverted to his dream of motor racing. He tested at Oulton Park, courtesy of Barry Filter, actually beating Bruce McLaren's times in his own car. From then, he was destined for a highly successful racing career.

And what a career it turned out to be. Racing in ninety nine Grand Prix - winning twenty seven. Add seventeen pole positions, fifteen fastest laps, 359 points and three World Championships. A record that held for fourteen years, a light-year in Formula One terms, until it was beaten by a driver Jackie greatly admired: Alain Prost raced in 201 Grand Prix, with an amazing fifty one being victories.

Jackie spent a season in F3 with Ken Tyrrell, before his Formula One debut with BRM at Kyalami 1965 saw him score a World Championship point. At Monza, his eighth race, he won his first Grand Prix. Still a rookie, with a lot to learn, he was already impressing all. 1966 was a year frustrated by reliability problems - five retirements in eight races, and another leading the Indianapolis 500 with eight laps to go.

Jackie has always been renowned for his pursuit of safety standards in the dangerous world of Formula One. His crash at Spa-Francorchamps in 1966, caused by atrocious weather conditions, kick started the drive from Jackie. The horrific accident - where he was trapped in his BRM for twenty five minutes, soaked in leaking petrol that could ignite at any given moment - made it clear to him that something had to be done. He never wanted to go through that terror again, and he never wanted any other driver to experience what he felt that day. Not only was the safety of the track itself awful, but the quality of the Emergency standards was appalling. Unhappy with it, and with the help of the BRM team leader Louis Stanley, Jackie launched a massive safety campaign to improve safety standards and track side medical facilities that continues even today.

Jackie was a driver on a world of his own. Not only did he take the stand, often alone, on burning safety issues, but he was a driver with unbelievable business talent and a dynamic brain branded one of the smartest in Formula One. As Stirling Moss said, "Jackie was the first of modern style drivers, a man who drove fast enough to win, but at the slowest possible speed." Possibly there's a lesson there for a certain Mr. Schumacher!

Jackie perfected an art in Formula One that spectators became used to seeing from him. He would drive an absolutely stunning first lap, totally shocking his opponents. Then he would control the remainder of the race, as he wished and at his own pace.

Jackie's three titles came with the help of Ken Tyrell. He raced Ken's cars for six of his nine years in Formula One. Jackie's talent and professional approach, along with the blue Elf sponsored Tyrell, was a match made in heaven. The partnership began in 1968 when he raced in Ken's Matra-Ford. He won three races, the most memorably the Nurburgring with a virtuoso performance against treacherous weather conditions. He finished the season as runner up while Graham Hill took the title.

The first tile came in 1969, again racing the Matra-Ford. With an impressive six victories and five fastest laps, he became the champion at Monza after a huge slipstreaming battle that left him heading Rindt, Beltoise and McLaren.

His next title followed two years later, where he was in the all home built Tyrell. He dominated the 1971 season in a fashion rarely seen in Formula One. Winning six races, he took the title with sixty two points; twenty nine points more than second-placed Ronnie Peterson.

Nor was Jackie just a naturally talented and fast driver; he was extremely technically minded, and a whiz at setting up the car and stunning his opponents. He was good enough to drive quickly, yet smart enough to utilise the slowest possible speed to win, allowing him to look after his car.

It is quite possible he would have won the title in 1972 had he not been forced to miss several Grand Prix due to severe stomach ulcers. However, he fought back tremendously, salvaging four victories; a late season spurt saw him move to second in the championship with forty five points, sixteen points behind Emerson Fittipaldi's Lotus-Ford.

He departed Formula One the following year after seeing his friend and team mate, Francios Cevert, killed during practise for the American Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. It was too much for Jackie, who pulled to the side of the track and abandoned his Tyrell - never to race in Formula One again. He retired from the top due to unforeseen circumstances and will always be remembered for it, taking the title in his last season with five race wins and seventy-one points.

Jackie is a man of principle, always acting on them to achieve the standards he wanted. He was a great commercial figure who wanted to see drivers properly remunerated for the risks they took every time they stepped into a racing car. He is responsible for many of the barriers and railings around the circuits, since becoming head of the Formula One Drivers Association after winning his first title. An appropriate role for the man who always aired his views and fought for what he believed, even if no-one stood the ground with him.

He was the first true all-round professional racing driver, doing everything from driving to the car set-up to using his brain to win races and standing up for the rights of himself and fellow drivers. Who else better to be the Team President of Stewart Grand Prix?


Article is written by and copyright © 1999-2001 Julie Gates and The F1 Rumors Site

Julie Gates is happiest watching F1 and writing. Also interested in singing, cars, cinema, reading and going to concerts, she has little spare time to relax, but this is the way she likes it - rather being busy than idle as she can't stand still for five minutes! Totally committed to her career as a Formula One journalist, she is determined to succeed.


Interested in reading more by this author?


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