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Video: Jackie Stewart on Murray Walker’s F1 Greats

Submitted by on May 13, 2010

This segment of Murray Walker’s F1 Greats follows Jackie Stewart’s Formula One career, with insights from Jackie on his most memorable races and key events and turning points in his career.

Jackie Stewart was known for more than just fabulous sideburns, fearless racing pedigree and tidy steering. A crash during the opening stages of the 1966 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, after his stunning rookie season in F1, marked the inception of his quest to improve safety standards in racing that would ultimately prove instrumental in preventing injury and death in Formula One.

His shunt had left him trapped inside his BRM with a serious fuel leak threatening to spark at any moment. Poor infrastructure meant that it was left to other drivers to rescue him and a long wait for any sort of medical assistance which, when it did come, was far from optimal. The experience demonstrated to him first hand the lack of proper safety measures in Formula One: “it was simply ridiculous. Here was a sport that had serious injury and death so closely associated with it, yet there was no infrastructure to support it, and very few safety measures to prevent it.” (Stewart, from Formula1.com).

Jackie’s campaign for racing safety was not without its detractors; some lamenting the loss of some of the passion and sense of spectacle that surrounded the sport, but few could argue with his credentials and even fewer could argue with the results.

“I found the walls threatening because you were exiting at very high speed and having to commit to the exit very early on” – Jackie Stewart

During 1966 Jackie made a quick stop in the United States to enter the Indianapolis 500. He held a considerable lead by the final stages of the race, despite only minor exposure to the racing format and driving “… basically by the seat of my pants”, and would’ve won if an engine blow-up didn’t end his race eight laps early.

The German Grands Prix held at the Nürburgring were well known for being incredibly demanding, dangerous and exciting. Affectionately nicknamed ‘The Green Hell’ by Stewart, the Nürburgring was and still is, the most brutal and unforgiving track in racing. A treacherous blanket of rain and fog smothered the circuit during ’68 grand prix, setting the stage for one of Jackie’s finest drives and a Formula One classic. Jackie won in a dominant display from the third row of the grid, taking the victory four minutes ahead of Graham Hill’s lotus. He did it with his wrist in a splint. In summary: he won an F1 Grand Prix at the Green Hell in all but impossible conditions, with his wrist in a splint.

“I never did a lap at the Nurburgring that I didn’t have to do” – Jackie Stewart

Four four-wheel drive F1 cars were entered into the 1969 British Grand Prix, making the race an interesting one before it even began. Stewart was on a hot streak, having won four from five races leading into Silverstone, but suffered in practice and started second, with Jochen Rindt on pole. The four-wheel drive cars turned out to be no problem for the pair, who went on to thrill fans with a scintillating battle for victory that ended only because part of Rindt’s rear wing came lose, forcing him into the pits and out of the duel.

Stewart would go on to win again at Monza in an absolute nailbiter of a finish, taking his first world championship in 1969.

The video provides some excellent insight into Jackie’s career as he reflects on these legendary races and the darker side of his era of Formula One seen in the deaths of Jochen Rindt and Francois Cervert.

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Seth Reinhardt

Images via wikimedia commons: Caulfieldh, Lothar Spurzem, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Germany and the GNU Free Documentation License

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