about him in seventiesPost 1945 Drivers
Mainly Formula One
Answer: Stewart drove the Rover BRM gas Turbine but he never walked out
The World Champion Retires from Formula One
How do you measure a champion? By his results, or by the way he attained them? By the universal nature of his fame, or by his popularity-index? In terms of records, or exploits, or victories or sheer prowess? The history of motor sport provides us with no infallible method of answering these questions. Statistics are indeed a necessity, and even indispensable, too - but they are not enough. You cannot forego some analysis. But the problem becomes singularly complex when you have to analyse a racing driver. For how do you, in this case, apportion the praise and the blame fairly between man and machine in the successes and failures of a career? As for trying to com pare the merits of champions from different eras, this is an idle undertaking, since the problem is insoluble objectively, and more so scientifically. None the less, attempts have recently been made to this end, using a computer. However, as is only too well known, a computer is worth no more than what one feeds into it in the way of data, and the same old difficulties arise: what criteria should be selected? What should be the relative importance of each factor? In short, one is reduced to applying a few good old rules of thumb: accurate and serious records, an adequate time-lapse, honesty, and dispassion towards the subject under review. Humility, too, within the limits imposed by observation.
After nine years in Formula 1, crowned by three World Champion titles and 26 Grand Prix victories, Jackie Stewart has decided to bring his career to an end. But as these words were written, nobody knew - maybe not even he himself - at what date this decision, which was already firm in principle, would take effect. However, the possibility - and above all the possible imminence - of his retirement gave rise to the desire to see Stewart's career analysed, put into perspective, and evaluated. Although it is too soon to be able to do it with all the data at hand that would be postulated by a genuine historical study, we offer you here what may be considered a first approach to an appraisal of the man who was not only the key figure in the 1973 season, but whose name already symbolises an era in motor racing.
Let's look first at the question which is so often raised: is Stewart better or worse than Fangio, Moss and Clark, the three princes whom Formula 1 has known since its creation in 1950? It's a problem, but nevertheless a fascinating intellectual exercise, and even a worthwhile one, which can be undertaken without dishonour . . . but also without any illusions. . .
To start with some figures: Fangio raced in 58 Grands Prix and won 24. Moss left 71 starting grids and scored 16 victories. Clark, in 72 races, won 25 times.! At the end of 1973, Stewart clocked up 27 wins in exactly 99 races. It can thus be seen that Stewart has contested nearly twice as many GP races as Fangio, but has won only three more. Compared with Clark, his performance is more respectable, but it remains substantially inferior. On the other hand, it is better than that of Moss. Do we conclude from these figures that the result of an imaginary race between these four great champions would result in the classification Fangio - Clark - Stewart Moss? That would be an over-simplification. In fact, nobody knows whether Fangio would have had the success in the 'sixties and 'seventies that he had in the 'fifties and recorded the same kind of score: for reasons which we shall be enlarging upon later, this seems highly unlikely. If Clark had lived until today, would he have carried off all the races that Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt, Emerson Fittipaldi or Ronnie Peterson have won at the wheels of the Lotus cars that Jimmy would have driven in their place or alongside them? That, by contrast, seems quite probable. But would he have done better against Stewart than his successors have done? That too seems probable, for it will not be disputed that Hill in 1968 did not have his talent, and Fittipaldi in 1971 did not have his experience. One can doubtless maintain for sure that, if Clark were still alive, the record of wins would still be his property, and that he would have increased it to a level that could never be equalled. And, moreover, that, in all probability, his glory would eclipse Stewart's.
But all that gets us nowhere. To be truthful, it is already extremely difficult to compare two rival, contemporary drivers in two different makes of car. Hence, how can one claim to make a valid comparison between champions who practically never raced against each other? Only Fangio and Moss came to grips enough, towards the end of the former's career, for the latter, having in turn retired, to admit his inferiority. But it is certainly not because this admission happens to coincide with the statistics that we can conclude that these are reliable and make generalisations on the basis of them. One could devise more sophisticated mathematical methods than this, but without obtaining from them anything more, we are convinced, than a lot of quantified evidence which misses the essential point: that each driver performed with different resources and motivations, in conditions that have never ceased to change - indeed, in twenty-three years, they have been completely transformed. It is these factors which we are going to examine now, and which will enable us to assure you, with no fear of error, not that Stewart is more or less greater than Fangio, Moss or Clark, but that he is very much their heir. That he is an exceptional champion, in a class comparable with that of the three "idols", who were recognised as such.
As a start, there is the fact that, as far as equipment at his disposal is concerned (and everyone knows how important that is in the career of a racing driver), Stewart has been rather less favoured than Clark and substantially less than Fangio (Moss having fared- no better than Stewart in this respect-quite the reverse, in fact). While in fact he drove for two seasons (1969 with the Matra MS 80 and 1971 with the Tyrrell 001) a better car than his rivals, he was clearly at a disadvantage in 1966 and 1967 (BRM) and in 1970 (March). In 1972, the Tyrrell 001 had lost the supremacy, and it was not until the two final races of the season that 005 reclaimed it. Finally, in 1973, the Lotus-JPS and McLaren cars had a performance at least equivalent to the Tyrrell 006. As for Clark, he was a one-make man with Lotus, which from 1962 until and including 1965 generally speaking, dominated its rivals. In 1966, and at the beginning of 1967, Colin Chapman's cars were eclipsed and Clark with them, with one or two brilliant but rare exceptions. Thereafter, with the entry in the lists of the Ford V8, of which they had the exclusivity that year, the Lotuses regained their superiority, and so did Clark, up until his last Grand Prix at Kyalami in March 1968. As for Fangio, he nearly always had at his disposal the best car of the moment, from the Alfetta of his early days to the "invincible" Mercedes of 1954 and 1955, and including the Ferraris and Maseratis along the way. Second important point: Stewart's arrival in Formula 1 was only shortly before that of the Ford-Cosworth V8 engine, which fairly quickly found its way into most of the GP cars-the best of them in particular. This turned out to be a completely unprecedented leveling factor, which alone could explain why Stewart found himself up against better mechanically equipped competition than that of his predecessors. There is no doubt about that. Thirdly, as an additional factor, from the driving point of view, Stewart did not lack rivals. Certainly, Fangio had to beat Moss who, like him, drove Mercedes. Equally, he had to get the better of Ascari, who was no nonentity, in the days when they both drove against each other and Ascari was a great champion. Agreed, Brabham, Surtees, Gurney and Graham Hill were not merely foils to Clark.. . None the less, it can be argued that the opposition that Stewart had to beat, especially during the second part of his career, was quantitatively if not qualitatively tougher and more constant. In fact, the popularity of motor sport having increased and widened during recent years, there are more people in the business. Since "career development" in motor racing is now organised much more systematically than in the past, drivers have been able to "graduate" more quickly and in larger numbers. Maybe the standard of driving has not risen - it is difficult to judge this objectively - but it is undeniable that on today's GP starting grids there are many more potential winners than there have ever been previously. All these reasons explain why the "Stewart era" (if, as we believe, such a thing exists) was not always brilliant-far from it. And, with the exception of the 1971 season during which his domination was unquestioned, why it was characterised by a constant and vigorous dispute of his supremacy. Successively or concurrently, Hill, Rindt, Ickx, Brabham, Emerson Fittipaldi, Ronnie Peterson and Francois Cevert, his own team-mate, all showed themselves to be rivals capable of beating or worrying Stewart any time that things didn't go too well for him. He was therefore obliged constantly, or nearly constantly, to give of his best, and he has often very evidently had to work hard to win, or just to hold on to a respectable position. As a result, while there is no hesitation in describing the careers of Fangio or Clark as "reigns", it is natural, in comparison, that one is less spontaneously inclined to eulogistic excesses in putting a label to Stewart's. For all that, let it not be said that the wood cannot be seen for the trees: despite all these difficult circumstances, he won three titles and 27 victories in nine seasons. During this period, no other driver was crowned World Champion more than once. And, with the exception of Clark, the driver who scored the most victories was Emerson Fittipaldi, who won 9 Grands Prix. Thus, in all objectivity, it can be affirmed that the 1965-1973 era (if, indeed, it is already the end of an era) can and should bear the name of Jackie Stewart, who left his mark on it.
When one thinks of Jackie Stewart, two adjectives immediately come to mind: "militant" and" professional" .
One man's destiny immediately becomes clear when it is possible to identify, from the course of his life, the few key facts which explain his temperament, his behaviour and (at a pinch) his successes and failures. Jackie Stewart's is no exception to the rule.
First of all, we have his modest, provincial background. Secondly, his father's business as garage proprietor. Then his brother, Jimmy, crazy about motor racing, who nearly killed himself in a race. Then his marriage, very young and with nothing behind him financially; his meeting with a man of strong and influential personality, Ken Tyrrell, with whom he was to enter into a very close and somewhat complex relationship, greatly exceeding in any case the usual framework of relationship between a driver and a sport director. Finally, as the crucial date, the accident at Spa in 1966, which was to upset not only his own concept of motor racing but the sport as a whole. It is thus that we get closer to Jackie Stewart's character: he started racing already conscious of the dangers. He was poor, and right from the start saw in motor sport the means of getting rich. But he did not underestimate the precariousness of such an undertaking, and devoted himself, more than anyone had ever done before, to maximising his profits - and very fast.
He very early experienced a sense of responsibility as head of a family, and this strengthened his ideas on the subject of finance as well as of safety. The latter, indeed, became pressing after he had spent nearly half an hour in a ditch on the Francorchamps circuit, trapped in his overturned BRM, soaked in petrol, hurt, dead scared, waiting for help which didn't come. In his hospital bed, saved - but no thanks to the rescue teams !-he reflected on what had happened. The accident, which involved several cars, had occurred through no driving fault of his own, nor mechanical fault, but through a failure of the organisation, which had not warned the drivers that a storm had broken at Malmedy and flooded the track which up until then had been perfectly dry. The consequences might have been tragic, by reason of the fact that, in spite of the high speed of the cars in this delicate section of the course, no means of protection had been installed against cars leaving the track. To cap everything, the rescue services had not functioned! I t was as a result of his reflections that his crusade for safety, which he pursued obstinately and come hell and high water thereafter, was born.
Apart from a great career, he will in this respect leave behind him a record of work which is just as significant, if not more so. It has moreover brought him unrestrained and often dishonest attacks. He has been variously accused of being a softy, trades-unionist maniac. He has been charged with irresponsibility and despotism. A systematic campaign has been mounted against him to discredit him in the eyes of the public by trying to show him up as a coward, by gibing at him, by ridiculing him.
Indeed, Stewart is no hothead - but he is quite the contrary to chicken-hearted, as he has proved many times over and this does not call for restatement. One thing only: his aversion for the Spa circuit is well - known - an objective aversion, aggravated by the memory of the most serious accident of his career. None the less, who was it who put up the second best times in the 1968 Belgian Grand Prix practice sessions if not Jackie Stewart?
In short, and essentially, he has battled tirelessly, without allowing himself to be put off, at great risk to his own image and against the majority of the powers that be-an obstinate struggle, and one that finally proved victorious. In this respect, Stewart will have played the part of the pilgrim-and the scapegoat. He never hesitated to carryon his own shoulders the entire responsibility for a campaign which earned him some powerful enemies. He made the drivers' voices heard above all the others, and that was to result in a real and profound shake-up of the organisation, customs, hierarchy and gerontocracy of motor sport as a whole. Stewart was an insurgent and a militant, that's for sure - he put all his energy and persuasive talent into it, and they are considerable. It was his reputation that he put in the balance, and, if he did not stop accidents happening, he contributed more than anyone else in minimising their consequences.
But all this has not been achieved without troubles, that is certain. Passing from requests to demands, from dictates to boycottings, Stewart has sometimes shown himself neither very generous nor very understanding. He has operated at blood-heat, cut to the quick, shocked, collided with people, straining as he was toward his goal. Moreover, he has not always shown himself very just, either: the fact is that his dogmatic rigidity concerning Continental circuits has been matched by a certain laxity in favour of English tracks. One can also reproach him for having selected as his sole target the equipment and arrangement of racetracks, and to have remained strangely silent on the subject of cars. And also for having more than once, for his own ends, resorted to moral blackmail. And even, as the very prophet of safety, to have allowed himself to descend to a manoeuvre which, if not dangerous, was at the very least disloyal to his adversaries, when he passed Peterson and Revson in full view of the yellow flag at Kyalami in 1973.
Let's turn now to the other, and most obvious, aspect of Jackie Stewart's personality. It has often been said-wrongly that he was the first really professional racing driver. This is going too far, in fact, for Fangio undeniably had a professional attitude to racing, for instance. He did his job, in any case, with all the conscience and seriousness of a good artisan. As for Stewart, he behaved rather as a businessman. It's true that this is not the same thing, but, when you get down to it, it was fairly natural when you take into account the way that attitudes, customs and methods changed in the intervening period. It remains that, to some extent, the businessman image he gave himself detracted without doubt from his image as a sportsman.
We have already recalled his modest origin, his ambitious character, and his fears about the ephemeral and even dangerous aspects of a racing driver's career. If we add his fascinated and almost religious admiration of financial success, it can be understood that he was naturally inclined to give absolute priority to this side of things. Intelligent and astute, Jackie Stewart moreover appreciated all the advantage he could derive from the new techniques of promotion, and did not hesitate to use them. And that's what shocked the deliberately traditionalistic world of motor sport, which felt itself attacked by the intrusion of cheap and loud publicity. Its most conservative elements were never to forgive Stewart for having put the maggot into the apple. He then entrusted the management of his interests to a specialised American firm, which "sells" his name to manufacturers all over the world. Other great sportsmen had done it before him: Killy, the skier, Spitz, the swimmer... Throughout his entire career, Jackie Stewart never started a race without being in full possession of all his faculties. In this respect, he knew only one difficult period: it was at the start of the 1972 season, when stomach ulcer symptoms appeared. Naturally, he handled this illness as he handled everything else: with infinite seriousness. Since then, he keeps to a strict diet, under medical supervision.
Similarly, for a long time he had himself accompanied by a doctor specialised in reanimation, ready to intervene each time he raced. It should not be deduced from this that Stewart is an austere personage, lacking in humour, timorous and faddy. But he is incontestably greedy for money and honours, and egocentric (as, indeed, are most racing drivers). He just took things further than the others, and sometimes not without naivety. And that could not please everyone. If he had natural gifts, he never showed them; on the contrary, he took pleasure in emphasising the hard work he had to put into things. He regarded it as a duty to fulfill his obligations to his employers and those who approached him, and put so much ostentation into it that the result was an embarrassing lack of spontaneity.
It reached the point where he was often reproached for having "desanctified" and demythified the Champion. And it's true that, if he succeeded in becoming a star, Jackie Stewart never built himself a legend. He's a chap who does his job admirably, a "pro" who is the best in his speciality. But no statue. In this respect, without any doubt, he did not know how to raise himself to the rank of an idol, to which Fangio and Clark acceded without even trying: the one because, as a mature and simple man, he fascinated the public by his tranquil, natural, peasant force and equanimity; the other because, as a young man touched by grace, he seemed to accomplish the greatest exploits with stupefying ease, as though it was the most natural thing in the world, and because he sought happiness more than glory or power in racing. This is all much too sketchy, of course, and almost a caricature. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that it explains why Stewart, the model professional, in drawing admiration, has not inspired sympathy.
Now let's consider him as a driver. And first of all, in this respect as in his activities to promote safety, was Jackie Stewart an innovator? Did he contribute something individual to competition driving technique, as for instance did Stirling Moss who was the first to perfect the braked entry to bends. In fact, Stewart appears rather as a perfectionist-his style is completely classic. What sets it apart is that it is extremely well-reasoned, and totally directed towards the greatest homogeneity. It is evident that Stewart doesn't believe in impulsiveness, or inspiration-and still less in improvisation. His principle is that you should drive in such a way as to commit as few as possible minor faults-locking the wheels under braking, taking curves too wide, missing gear-changes, and so on. They are difficult to avoid in the heat of action, and, while they do not lose you a lot of time, they may cost you your position in the race these days when so frequently the enemy is on your tail.
His method has always consisted, initially, in working harder than anyone else during practice, in order to determine the optimum chassis tuning whatever the course conditions might be during the race. Fuel tanks full or empty, with one type of tyres or another, he made sure he would not be surprised by the car's behaviour, which would have been studied over a long period beforehand by implementing a generally systematic and always substantial programme. His choice of gear ratios was always made in response to the demands of the track rather than dictated by the desire to break lap records. All this explains perhaps why Stewart is recorded as having relatively few "pole positions" at the start, and is no specialist in "fastest times". For him, practice was always a work session devoted to preparing himself and his car for the Grand Prix rather than to drawing attention to himself by some spectacular exploit. He is not indeed the only one to reason thus. But his assiduity and his experience (as well as the exemplary organisation of the team directed by Ken Tyrrell) in this crucial phase have generally assured him of remarkable efficiency.
The second part of the "Stewart method" consists, during the race, of setting a pace that is as consistent as it is high, and of being able to maintain it unflinchingly from beginning to end if need be. Hence his particularly flowing style, at once elegant and sober, without either "hot" or "flat" spots. Watching Stewart drive, it's virtually impossible to tell whether or not he is in process of trying to achieve a certain speed. The effort he puts into it is rarely appreciate visually - you read it on the chronometer.
Thus, Stewart is certainly not an acrobatic driver. He could have been if he wanted, and we have seen it happen by chance on several occasions. But he has ruled this out. Instead, he has sought, by "undressing" style, to achieve the most perfect continuity possible in performing a lap of the circuit, and the capacity to repeat this performance untiringly throughout the entire distance of a Grand Prix. This is undoubtedly why his critics have reproached him for lacking panache. In their book, Stewart is certainly a champion, but a little one. A good theorist, agreed, but neither an eagle like Fangio nor a tiger like Clark. A desperately hard worker rather than a gifted driver. An accountant as far as achievement is concerned... an economist at the wheel... However, to be entirely objective, Stewart in no way conveys the impression of being a mere operative. To watch him drive has always been a delight. And when the need has arisen, he has shown that he can surpass himself: in 1968 at the Nurburgring, certainly, where, in the fog and rain, he achieved the unforgettable performance which marked the beginning of his era (four months after the tragic end of Clark's) - more than four minutes ahead of the field at the finish, a totally unique lead in the annals of modern Formula 1 racing. But also at Monza, five years later, on the occasion of the last Grand Prix, which he marked by his enrapturing recovery, after a puncture stop, which totally eclipsed the double win of the JPS cars.
Always consistent, often brilliant, sometimes sublime, Jackie Stewart has also cultivated two other magisterial qualities: uncommonly sure judgement, particularly evident when the race conditions became difficult or extraordinary-for example at Charade in 1972, when it was necessary to find a path through the stones obstructing the track, or again at Zolder this year, when the surface was breaking down in strips-; and an exceptional power of concentration, which more than once enabled him to leave his rivals standing by his instantaneous action. Besides this, he has arrived at a remarkable mastery of the art of overtaking, 'and it was above all thanks to his virtuosity in this respect that he outdistanced Emerson Fittipaldi in the 1973 Monaco Grand Prix.
To sum up, Jackie Stewart is the personification of the absolutely all-round driver -which does not mean that he attained perfection, either. During a Formula 1 career which lasted nine years, he made mistakes-for example, on the occasion of' the 1972 British Grand Prix, when he let E. Fittipaldi through, and in the same race a year later, when he botched things in pulling back while attacking Peterson, and departed tail first. Once, he was seen to deliberately abdicate: it was in the 1971 Dutch Grand Prix when, with inefficient rain tyres, he let himself slide back in position without putting up any fight. Once, yes. . . but in 99 GP races! And Fangio, Clark and Moss were not immune, either, to incidents, bad luck and errors. The future will decide whether, above and beyond the quarrels which the personality, the performance and the controversial talent of Jackie Stewart aroused, he will join ad perpetuum these three Glories in the Olympic heights of Formula 1. This is by no means certain, because he has reduced the image of a Grand Prix driver to merely human proportions, and an iconoclast has no place in Trapition's temple. Meanwhile, we can bear witness to the fact that, whilst he raced cars as much as a profession as a sport, he also practised it as an art. And that he didn't skimp the chefs - d'oeuvre.