Sir Jackie Stewart – Speaking Out of The Box – Page Five
And, what does Sir Jackie Stewart do at the current Grand Prix races, where his presence always sparks an on-camera television interview, however brief, from arguably the most recognized name in all of motor racing? I ask just that.
“I have corporate relationships,” replies Stewart, and I’m hoping at this point that his ride into Buckinghamshire will still allow enough time for us to talk on, and it seems it will. “Obviously,” he says, “I was forty years with Ford. I have been spraying Champagne since ’69, so I’ve been forty-two years of being under contract with Moët et Chandon. I’m still with Rolex, and I’m going to the Daytona Twenty-Four Hour race in January with them. But I am also with a company called Genii Capital, you know, it’s like you polish the lantern and the genie comes out! It’s a Luxemburg-based company. They specialize in investing in high technology start-up, and they brought me in because they own what is called the Lotus Renault Team, and in 2012 it will be simply Lotus F1—two young men, one thirty-nine, one forty-three, very successful businessmen, and they are using Formula One as a marketing tool because they are really global players and are bringing clients and partners from every corner of the world, whether it’s Latin America, Asia-Pacific, Europe, North America, etcetera. So I’m doing what I was doing whether it was with HSBC or whether it was the Royal Bank of Scotland, or whether it was the Ford Motor Company. I’m involved in their strategy, and partially responsible for using motorsport in this way to create incremental business. And then, they’ve got corporate hospitality, sometimes at the very highest level—obviously chairmen, presidents, CEOs and sometimes senior politicians at the same level, prime ministers, or presidents of countries. And much more as well. So, I’m deeply involved in the sport still. I do between eight and ten Grand Prixs a year, and I’m right in the middle of it, really. I love the life. I still work as hard today as I’ve ever worked, but I enjoy it.”
I wonder, does Sir Jackie Stewart ever think about giving it up? Doing something else?
“No. No, I’m just in the middle of negotiating a new contract even today. No, I enjoy it. I enjoy it very much.”
And, if we have time, and we apparently do—what about the Formula One drivers today? What about Kimi Räikkönen and his return to Formula One in 2012?
“Kimi, I think, will come back well,” responds Stewart. “I mean, we’ll only know that after the second or third race, maybe, but I think he’s the type of driver who will plug back into F1. He’s just a racer. I think he will plug in quite well. I think many people will be quite surprised, and I certainly hope so.”
And what about Sebastian Vettel? How is he?
“Terrific,” enthuses Stewart. “He’s the most mature twenty-four year old I have ever seen in auto racing. So well balanced, and he’s a proper thinker, and goes about his business correctly.”
“Very smooth. Good mind management. Never over-drives. Really gets the job done.”
“Lewis is probably the fastest driver out there, but sometimes doesn’t have the mind management, and clearly in 2011 was an example of that. Too many incidents. Not just with Massa, but with other people, and putting himself in a position where other people could negatively effect him—even if it wasn’t his fault, it was his fault for being there. Another driver with a little more vision would not have been where he was when the incident occurred. I don’t know whether it’s his lifestyle, or if it’s his focus, or his commitment. He’s made a lot of money. He’s become a real personality in his own right, so sometimes these things can be distracting. He’s got the skills. If he can just keep his head together he’ll be successful again.”
I say to Stewart that it must be so gratifying for him to continue in this Formula One picture and to keep that vital part of it going.
“I’m really lucky and feel very fortunate,” he answers, “and I have wonderful commercial relationships and I still love the sport, and I’ve got a lot of friends in there.”
I’ll always remember Stewart flashing by during a Grand Prix in his Tyrrell and him, at the wheel, noticing that IMG’s Jay Michaels was talking to someone on the sidelines, and Stewart being conscious of this and also curious, and to have the facility to do that while driving past Jay at full tilt, 160 or so miles an hour!
“I remember it,” says Stewart, and he pauses to bring to mind an observation so perfectly his: “The consumption of a top racing driver is fantastic, the consumption of information you get. You see people, just as you describe, you see photographers, you see someone opening an umbrella in a grandstand with ten thousand people in it. You pick it out, because it’s important. Your peripheral visions are very good and the consumption of information is fast and you can decipher it quickly. That’s one of the things I wouldn’t be able to do at this age. The eye consumption of information, the processing of it, and it spitting itself back out for you to clearly identify what you had seen and what you are going to do about it. I mean, that’s when you are at the height of your profession.”
It seems that’s it, he’s said it all, it’s time to stop—until I mention again that my interview with him will be on Sports Car Digest’s website. And he reminds me of what I already know from having worked with him in the past.
“I have dyslexia,” Stewart says. “I don’t use websites, and I’m not computer literate. I can’t even do emails. You know, I can’t find my name on a keyboard. I don’t know the alphabet or the words of my national anthem. Being dyslexic is very serious, but what it does do, you think out of the box a lot. You learn to do things that other people never thought about doing. In that respect it’s actually sometimes quite productive.”
Closing this interview comes spontaneously, saying to my friend: “And so many of the things that you do are done no better than by Sir Jackie Stewart.”
He laughs. “Well, I don’t know about that. But listen, Bill,” he says, “I’m going to slip away if you don’t mind. I’ve got to catch up on one more call while I’m in the car.”
That “one more call” is so typical of this man driven by his passion to involve, to think so far beyond words he can barely read. In doing media, never show him a cue card or a teleprompter, but engage him in a conversation and he will absolutely astound with his knowledge and perceptions no matter what the subject. He’s an amazement.
Harking back to 1974 and Practice Day at Brand Hatch on page 1 here, I need to say this: Everywhere the Wee Scot and I went that Friday of the British Grand Prix was as if I was walking next to a giant. The three-times World Champion was the target for every autograph seeker, every opportune handshake, every prospect for a smile and comment—and it’s still that way with Sir Jackie, everywhere he goes.
We got the film work with him done that day at Brands Hatch for the half-hour documentary I was doing for IMG called The Days of the Champions—visiting up-close with three top IMG clients: Jackie Stewart, Arnold Palmer and Jean-Claude Killy. And there was more, meaning welcome leisure time in the race paddock with Lord Hesketh’s team and his race driver James Hunt. And there was Stewart’s wife, Helen, and the young Stewart boys—Paul at age 11, and 6-year old Mark. And fresh lobster on the grill, a Hesketh touch while others cooked chicken. And the drivers drove the cars out onto the course in their mid-‘70s garb and livery and it was all like a dream that can be brought back whenever I wish.
Thank you, Jackie. And thanks, readers, for being here.
[Source: William Edgar; photos: William Edgar, Sir Jackie Stewart Collection and Autosports Marketing Associates]