Our legends of the F1 series continues this week with the man ranked eighth; the Flying Scot, Jackie Stewart. The Scotsman replaced his fallen comrade Jim Clark as Scotland’s number one athlete. Stewart’s smooth style of driving propelled F1 into the 70s. In doing so, he won three world championships that solidified his legend. The 60s belonged to Graham Hill and Jim Clark; the early 70s belonged to Jackie Stewart.
A Triple World Champion
Jackie Stewart burst onto the F1 scene in his sophomore year as he finished runner-up in the championship. A year later, in 1969, he would win the title after winning six races in that season. There were several dominant performances, such as his win in Monza when he lapped the field twice. Stewart did the same in Silverstone earlier that season. His smooth driving style allowed him to be consistently fast across all conditions.
Stewart would leave the Matra team after the 1969 season. He signed for Tyrell; 1970 was a learning year for him in a new team. After that development year, Steward would win the championship in 1971. It was another year where he took the checkered flag six times, Stewart was in control all season long. Plus, he did it while racing in the Can-Am series. That’d be like Lewis Hamilton racing F1 and IMSA this year. The Flying Scot even contracted Mononucleosis for his troubles. 1972 saw his season get derailed due to a flurry of illnesses; he even contemplated retirement before 1973, a severe bout of Gastritis led him to question his future.
However, the then double world champion put aside the retirement for one more shot in F1, he duly took the world championship in 1973. Stewarts wasn’t at his brilliant best of 1969; nevertheless, his car was fast enough to allow him to use his veteran instincts to win the third title. That was his last season in F1; he walked away on top of the world.
A Monaco Master
Like his predecessor’s Graham Hill and Jim Clark, Stewart tamed the streets of Monaco. He won thrice in the principality while taking four pole positions. Qualifying in Monaco is the ultimate test of a racing driver; it requires supreme precision and utmost bravery. Monaco is on the bucket list of every F1 driver; to be considered a legend, one must master the Monte Carlo streets. Steward did; it could’ve been even more if his car didn’t break down in 1968.
Triumphing Through Tragedy
Car racing is dangerous; it will always be hazardous. Jackie Stewart lived through one of the deadliest periods in F1 history. His mentor Jim Clark was killed in a crash in Hockenheim. At the same time, his good friend Jochen Rindt died in 1970. Stewart experienced his own brush with death in 1966. He crashed at a soaking Spa Francorchamps; he was racing at 165 mph when his car went off track. Racetracks back then were not surrounded by safety measures as they are now, flimsy fencing, hay, trees, and public buildings all lined up outside the track in the 60s.
Stewart’s crash was a classic example; his car barrelled through straw and grass that did not slow him down, the vehicle eventually crashed into a farmer’s outhouse. His body got trapped underneath his vehicle while the fuel tank was starting to leak. There were no marshals or safety crews at the time; it seemed as if it was over for him. Until Graham Hill and Bob Bondurant spotted damage on the track’s side, they investigated, which led them to the helpless Stewart. The duo extracted Stewart from the wreck; they saved his life.
After experiencing so much trauma in his career, Stewart plus the other drivers rallied together to campaign for better safety measures at racetracks. Due to their lobbying, the FIA finally implemented safer barriers, safety crews, and marshals. The drivers started a relentless push on safety, since that time, the FIA relentlessly looked to make the sport safer. It is still going strong in the present; after Romain Grosjean’s horrifying crash, the FIA will strive to implement more measures. The fact that Grosjean survived is a testament to what Stewart and his friends started in the early 70s.
Jackie Stewart’s legacy is incredible. He enjoyed remarkable success as a driver; he trailblazed a path for safety in F1 and was successful as a team owner. Add all that to a fantastic broadcasting career, Jackie Stewart is one of the tentpole figures in F1 history.