Former world champion Jackie Stewart: F1 review

Interview with former world champion Jackie Stewart
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Judging by your clear lead, winning the title in 1969 was a simple matter.
S tewart: It is never easy to win. My team was exceptionally good in 1969. Ken Tyrrell was a brilliant practitioner. Jean-Luc Lagardère, his partner at Matra, was perhaps the best businessman there has ever been on the French racing circuit. Dynamic, decisive, very elegant. A success story personified. Lagardère came from the aircraft business and had little knowledge of motorsport. Then he found the ideal complement in Tyrrell. Matra dreamed of an extremely advanced car.

And Ken Tyrrell talked him out of it?
Stewart: Exactly. He knew how motorsport works. Because to be the first to arrive, you have to arrive first. I stood between the two, was basically the interpreter. The team operated from a barn in the Surrey woods, by the way.

How big was the team?
Stewart: For the two emergency vehicles and the replacement car, we had seven mechanics, Ken and his wife Nora, who, together with my wife Helen, was responsible for the timekeeping and the sandwiches, Jean -Luc, engineers Bruno Morin and Bernard Boyer, and Dunlop tire technicians Alec Mascot and Ian Mills. A practitioner and a scientist, so again this unbeatable synergy of two opposing types. Team manager Claude Leguezec and elf boss François Guiter stood above it. A real sales talent - eleven, that was Guiter. The whole advertising campaign, the talent development, the fundraising, the company logo - everything is him.

What effort was made?
Stewart: It was bigger than many people today want to believe. Our main donors were Ford, elf and Dunlop. We were their number one team and have covered a record number of test kilometers, mainly for Dunlop. We drove two GP distances for 14 days. That alone was 9,000 kilometers.

What was the budget?
Stewart: I got about a million dollars. That was a lot of money back then. Engines and tires were free. The construction of the chassis was financed by Matra. My team-mate Jean-Pierre Beltoise got his salary of eleven. The team got by on about two million dollars.

How many chassis did you use in 1969?
Stewart: One and a helmet. I havenever struck this helmet.

Didn't you have an accident at all?
Stewart: Yes, in practice at Silverstone. Piers Courage was before me. While robbing a curb, he hurled a stone in the direction of my vehicle. It hit my rear tire on the Woodcote corner and slashed it. Until my car was repaired, I used the Beltoise chassis. That put me in second place on the grid.

Which of the six victories in 1969 gave you the greatest satisfaction?
Stewart: The victory at Silverstone. Rindt and I overtook each other about 30 times. A crazy race. Monza was also good because we worked hard to achieve this victory. At the finish, Rindt, Beltoise, McLaren and me could be covered with a towel. There were still real slipstream duels where the last few meters out of the Parabolica mattered. Rindt and I went without a wing, Beltoise and McLaren. We spent a long time working on gearing up fourth gear in the best possible way. In such a way that it would bring me from the apex of the Parabolica to just past the finish line. This guaranteed the best possible acceleration. A change to fifth gear before the finish line would have cost me too much time. During training we simulated such a finish with the appropriate amount of fuel and then translated fourth gear so that it brought me up to 30 meters behind the finish line. And under all conditions. We didn't know whether we would be in front of the Parabolica or in the slipstream of another vehicle. In neither of the two cases was I allowed to shift up into fifth gear before the finish line. In the race, it worked out exactly as we had calculated. It was also about the money. In those days there was prize money for certain rounds of leadership. Of course we wanted to be ahead in those, and for that too we needed the trick with fourth gear.

There were serious accidents at the Spanish GP due to broken rear wings. After that the high wings were banned. Did that negatively affect your Matra?
Stewart: The car was totally different. At the following race in Monte Carlo on Thursday we still trained with our high wings. They were banned from Saturday. Rightly so. In Barcelona, ​​Hill, Rindt and Siffert, three cars were badly thrown off the track because the rear wings were broken - a suicide mission. Despite the serious intervention, the Matra was least affected. Lotus and Brabham have taken an extreme path and were punished the most by the rule change. We had wisely tested the car with and without wings because we thought that there would be difficulties with these wings, which towered high above the vehicle. So we were prepared for the new situation. I immediately got polePosition in Monte Carlo. I retired in the race because of a defective drive shaft.

What made the Matra MS80 stand out?
Stewart: It was the best racing car I have ever driven. The MS80 was produced using technologies that were only used in aircraft construction at the time. Everything was calculated exactly, no handicraft work. It was therefore the stiffest chassis there was at the time. Which played a big role, because at the time we still rode with large suspension travel. The whole construction was much softer than it is today. A stiff cell was a big advantage.

How difficult was it to convince Matra that it would be better to drive a Cosworth V8 than a Matra V12?
Stewart: We never managed to convince them of that. Jean-Luc was so French that he was convinced of his own engine. But our success with the Cosworth engine proved us right. Before 1968 nobody knew the name Matra. After my World Cup title in 1969, at the latest, Matra was internationally known. After winning the World Championship, Mr. Lagardère was so excited about the idea that a thoroughly French car could do the same. He therefore only wanted to allow operations with the Matra V12 for 1970. When I was driving a Formula 2 race in Albi, they gave me a chance to test the Matra-Matra Formula 1. At six in the morning so nobody can see us. The engine was a wonderful piece of technology. As is typical for a twelve-cylinder, the engine was easy to drive. In contrast to the Cosworth, the power started very softly. You felt like you were really fast. But it wasn't you, and that was exactly the problem. The little Cosworth V8 fitted the car much better, it had more top performance, and it was more reliable. The Matra-Cosworth package was unbeatable. Because the Matra people couldn't be convinced, we separated.

And then?
Stewart: For a while I was the world champion without a car. Lotus and Brabham refused to sell a car to Tyrrell. We weren't ready for our own construction. So we had to buy an off-the-shelf car at March. Compared to the racehorse Matra, the March was a plow horse. Robin Herd was a good designer, but he had to build a car for March that was cheap to make in order for it to sell well. The chassis turned. I had to partially hold the gear lever so that the gear wouldn't jump out. Something broke all the time.

In 1969 the drivers boycotted a Grand Prix for the first time out of safety concerns. Was the cancellation of Spa the beginning of a new era?
Stewart: Absolutely. It was the start of a serious security discussion. The Nürburgring had to believe in it the following year. We had one at the timescary high blood toll. In 1968, four drivers were killed within four consecutive months. All on the first weekend of the month. Then came the race at the Nürburgring on the first weekend in August. Can you imagine how we felt when we traveled to the Eifel? It was crazy.

Which route was more dangerous: Spa or the Nürburgring?
Stewart: The Nürburgring. He had 173 corners and just as many chances of having a serious accident. Spa was feared more because of its speeds. Nothing on the car was allowed to break because next to the route there were only trees, telegraph poles, embankments and farmhouses. Masta was a full throttle chicane with one house each in the run-off zone at the entrance and at the exit.

How often were you able to allow yourself a chaos round at the absolute limit back then?
Stewart: One a weekend. Jim Clarks and my 100 percent were 100 percent with a high degree of discipline and a certain amount of safety margin. We avoided cutting corners. There weren't any curbs. Maybe a hole in which something on the car could break.

In 2009 Red Bull used 19 different front wings. How did Matra develop in 1969?
Stewart: Every now and then we modified the suspension geometry. We could still see the details. Today cars have become so complicated that it has become impossible for the driver to grasp the exact effect of a change. I knew quite well about what was changing in the car. I knew what Ackermannwinkel, toe-in and caster mean. And what it does in terms of driving behavior if you change the values ​​by half a degree. I attached great importance to the adjustment of dampers and springs. Above all, how the rebound feels in the car. The rebound must always respond more gently than the compression. Back then there were no computers. So it was important to describe that to the engineers. You couldn't drive yourself and feel the same thing that I felt.

Was the technical understanding your advantage?
Stewart: I was forced to. Because I'm dyslexic, I've concentrated more on the language and pretty well embellished my descriptions of the vehicle. Always afraid they might not understand what I mean. The engineers knew what I wanted and I learned a lot from them through the conversation. That's why most of my racing cars have always been drivable. I want a car to invite me to drive up quickly. Not that driving fast becomes a test of courage. This is completely the wrong approach. All your talent goes into passing the test of courage. If the car is good-natured, then you can use the talent to go faster.

40 years after you became an English driver againWorld Champion. How do you see Formula 1 today?
Stewart: History repeats itself. I took the title from Graham Hill, Jenson Button from Lewis Hamilton. I'm not one of those who think the past was better. Today's Formula 1 is better than the time I was allowed to experience. Today everyone stays alive. Nevertheless, our time has given us more life experience. We had to think very broadly because not everything was so well organized.

Is Button a worthy world champion?
Stewart: He got the most points. That's why he deserves the title. I would have liked his great race in Brazil to have been rewarded with a better result than fifth. Becoming world champion with a fifth place is never entirely satisfying. Like me, he won six Grand Prix in 1969, but we only had eleven races instead of 17. Ferrari and McLaren were out of shape this year. Still, I can live with Jenson as a world champion. Who else should we grant the title to? Vettel with four wins? Webber and Barrichello with two each? Button just made the most of his chances when the BrawnGP was the best car in the field. It is legitimate. What I'm missing in Formula 1 at the moment is the absolute superstar. Many drive at a very high level, but there is no Jim Clark, Niki Lauda, ​​Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna or Michael Schumacher.

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