Exclusive: Sir Jackie Stewart Previews the FIA Formula 1™ World Championship 60th Anniversary Celebrations
Sir Jackie, you’re a regular visitor to Bahrain and its Grand Prix but this year it’s the venue of the 60th anniversary celebrations of the world championship. How special does that make this year’s event to you?
This 60th anniversary is a significant recognition for Bahrain on a global basis, but promoting the sport in this way is something that Bahrain has taken a lead on. The 60th anniversary celebration of the Formula 1™ world championship is especially impressive in that, as a relative newcomer to the sport, Bahrain has taken the trouble to assemble these drivers who have contributed so much to the history of Grand Prix racing and the world championship.
There are some seldom-seen cars coming out to the event next weekend, such as the very car in which James Hunt won the 1976 world championship at Mount Fuji in that atrocious weather. Are you looking forward to seeing them together?
Bahrain has been able to work with the owners of so many championship-winning cars to bring them back together with the drivers, and I think that is down to the remarkable reputation for friendliness that Bahrain has and the way it is always thinking out of the box to create this celebration at the start of such an exciting season for the sport.
All but two of the surviving world champions are making the journey to join in the celebrations, did you ever think that you would all be in the same place again?
I don’t think there’s ever been such a gathering of world champion drivers, and to have them together with such a collection of championship-winning cars and even driving them again is extraordinary.
It’s not only the drivers themselves but also their sons. Graham Hill’s 1968 championship-winning Lotus is going to be driven by his grandson Josh, and I myself am sharing the driving in my two cars with my sons Mark and Paul. For me to have the opportunity to do that is really the most wonderful thing and I know that Damon will be thrilled to see the same kind of family celebration and it will be very touching to see Graham so well represented. I think all of the champions, drivers and friends who won’t be able to make it won’t be far away from us or out of our thoughts and they will be well remembered.
Certainly for the fans the prospect of so many heroes together is something to look forward to but how about you?
I think everybody who is coming is absolutely thrilled at the prospect, and certainly for me it will be the chance to catch up with friends I haven’t seen for some time now. John Surtees spoke to me the other day and he was looking forward to the occasion in much the same way.
Some of the drivers I see regularly, I see a lot of Damon Hill and Niki Lauda for instance as they remain part of the sport and attend many of the races. But there are other drivers I see less often and so to share this event and to reminisce with Mario Andretti or Emerson Fittipaldi after some great races together over the years will be wonderful.
Of course Bernie Ecclestone was competing in the Formula 3 race supporting that first world championship Grand Prix at Silverstone 60 years ago, and has been such an enormous part of the championship’s story. He’s not someone who gets particularly emotional but what do you think his reaction will be?
Bernie is going to be just as touched and impressed by seeing these cars together as anyone else, especially as he owns several of them. It’s not all business with Bernie and I don’t care who you are, you won’t fail to be impressed by such a collection of cars and by the achievement of bringing so many world champion drivers together. I think Bernie will share a lot of the nostalgia and good feelings, and also take considerable pride in what he has done to make the sport so celebrated and such a success.
Two of your cars are coming – are they your all-time favourites?
The Matra MS80 in which I won the 1969 world championship was an amazing car, maybe the best I drove in my career. My son Mark now owns it; I gave it to him and I’m looking forward to sharing the experience of driving it with him over the two days. We’re also bringing the Tyrrell 006 in which I won my final world championship in 1973, but unfortunately the Tyrrell with which I won the 1971 world championship has just been put on display in the National Museum of Scotland and they had to take a wall down and rebuild it to get the car in place – so we left that one where it was.