Few people have been as important to Formula 1 and safety in racing than Jackie Stewart. Although he was active in the ’60s and ’70s, you can still see him at most F1 races today. Sick of friends and former racers dying, Jackie Stewart led a driver’s revolt to improve safety at several tracks around the world. Not only was Jackie Stewart a champion of safety, but he was also a pretty damn good driver winning the F1 Driver’s Championship three times. The “Flying Scot” was successful almost right out the gate following in his brother’s footsteps, who stopped racing after getting injured at Le Mans. He was also a champion shooter who could have gone to the Olympics if he so chose. Luckily for us, he went racing!
Before Formula 1
Stewart got his start in 1963 racing saloon cars in Britain and saw considerable success racing a Jaguar E-Type winning several races. He first caught the eye of the big leagues when tested a Formula 3 car that Bruce McLaren was also testing. Jackie Stewart immediately posted quicker times, leading to a seat with Tyrrell Racing for the upcoming Formula 3 season. It didn’t take long for him to impress winning his first race in the rain by 25 seconds. He was immediately offered a seat in F1 but turned it down to gather more experience. Stewart racked up five more wins in a row and finished with seven on the season, quickly taking the championship. After dipping a toe in Formula 2, Stewart would finally move up to Formula 1 for the 1965 season.
Jackie Stewart Joins the BRM F1 Team
Stewart entered Formula 1 in the 1965 season, joining Graham Hill at British Racing Motors (BRM). They both drove the BRM P56 chassis P261 with a tiny 1.5 liter V8. The car only made a minuscule 222 horsepower, but it was enough to propel the light chassis quickly. Stewart would finish 6th in his first race but would go on to rack up three podiums in a row at Monaco, Spa, and France. He would gather his first win at Monza, passing his teammate on the last turn. Jackie finished the season third behind his teammate who finished second and Jim Clark, who won the championship that year.
The same drivers would return for the 1966 season, but the team experimented with a new chassis the P83 and a new engine, the 3-liter H16 engine. The H16 was mainly two flat 8-cylinder engines bolted together. Power was up to 420 horsepower, but the motor was by far the heaviest on the grid coming in well over 500 lbs. Jackie Stewart started the season strong winning the Monaco Grand Prix but failed to see the podium for the rest of the season. The car proved unreliable, leading to four DNFs for Stewart with mechanical failures.
Jackie Stewart would return to BRM for the 1967 season, joining Mike Spence. They would field three chassis and two engines producing the expected terrible results. Stewart would finish only two races that season, the 2nd place at Spa and a 3rd in France.
Jackie Goes to Tyrrell
By 1968, Jackie was sick of the car, letting him down and would return to Tyrrell this time with their Matra-Ford F1 team. That year did not start well when Jackie retired from South Africa then missed two races due to injury. He would regain his form at Spa, placing 4th, then winning his first race for the team at the 1968 Dutch Grand Prix. Stewart would win again in a torrential downpour at the Nurburgring, finishing over 4 minutes ahead of second place. Jackie collected his final win at Watkins Glen, leading every lap. He would go on to finish second in the championship behind former teammate Graham Hill.
Jackie Stewart would return with Matra-Ford for the 1969 season and would have his most celebrated success yet. He would open the season with a win and would go on to win 6 of 8 to start the season. Stewart would go on the easily win his first championship well ahead of Jacky Ickx and Bruce McLaren, whom he bested on the test track all those years prior. It was during this season that Jackie also began his push to improve safety. He led a driver’s protest of the dangerous Spa circuit, calling for track safety improvements to the treacherous course. As a result, the track layout changed for future races, adding safety barriers to the track.
Jackie Stewart and the 1970s
The Flying Scot would again return in 1970 with Tyrrell but this time under the March-Ford team. Unfortunately, they didn’t see the same success as the year prior, with Stewart retiring from more races than he finished. He stilled racked up four podiums, including a win in Spain. Jackie also led another driver revolt, this time at the Nurburgring, leading to F1 moving the German Grand Prix to Hockenheim and making improvements to the Nurburgring for future races.
Jackie would return to Tyrrell in 1971, this time under the Tyrrell-Ford racing team. He would open the season finishing second in South Africa but would win five of the next six while collecting a sixth win in Canada. Jackie would again easily win the Drivers Championship, his second with Tyrrell. He also obtained a few hat tricks (pole, race win, fastest lap) at Monaco and France.
In 1972 Emerson Fittipaldi and Lotus would challenge Jackie Stewart and Tyrrell-Ford for supremacy. Jackie would win the first race in Argentina while Fittipaldi retired. Fittipaldi then went 2nd-1st in the next two while Stewart retired. Jackie would finish 4th and Fittipaldi 3rd in the next race. Stewart did run in Belgian, a Grand Prix Fittipaldi won. He was now in the lead in the Drivers Championship with Stewart languishing in 4th place. They would trade 1-2 finishes with Jackie winning first in France, then Fittapaldi taking the win at Silverstone, moving Stewart into second place in the championship. Germany was a disaster for both with Fittapaldi retiring and Stewart placing 11th. Fittipaldi would win the next two races while Stewart finished 7th and retired from the other. Jackie would close out the season by winning the final two races, but it wasn’t enough. He would finish second in the championship behind Fittipaldi.
Out on Top
Fittipaldi and Stewart would continue their battle into the 1973 season. Emerson would win the first two races of the season with Jackie joining him on the podium in 3rd and 2nd, respectively. Jackie would win South Africa with Emerson 3rd but would retire from the next race while Fittipaldi won. Stewart would win the upcoming two races with Fittipaldi joining him on the podium in 3rd and 2nd, respectively. Entering Sweden, Fittipaldi was four points ahead of Stewart in the championship. Neither of them would get on the podium again until the Dutch Grand Prix, where Jackie collected the win. Fittipaldi would retire, and Jackie would win the next race in Germany, where Emerson finished 6th. Jackie would collect one more podium, a 2nd in Austria, while Fittipaldi would receive two more (both 2nd). It wasn’t enough. Jackie would collect his third and final championship with Tyrrell.
Jackie Stewart is widely respected not just for his skill but for the safety changes he pioneered. He was the first one to push for a full-face helmet and Armco barriers. Dangerous tracks such as Spa and the Nurburgring were changed, and more people survived as a result. He was also a driving force in the modernization of F1 not only from a safety perspective but from an entertainment perspective. He was an excellent character with a unique voice and an entertaining way of speaking. Jackie also raced the Indy 500 twice in 1966 and 1967, nearly winning his first time out. He also drove at the 24 Hours of Le Mans finishing second in his class with co-driver Graham Hill. Prince Charles knighted Jackie Stewart in 2001. When he retired in 1973, he had the most wins of all-time with 27. He’s still 8th on that list.
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