F1: in-depth interview with Sir Jackie Stewart

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarFriday, December 7th, 2007

 
 

The Times has just published a long and illuminating interview with Sir Jackie Stewart, in which he discusses his career in F1, its appalling safety record at the time and the toll that the deaths of many friends and colleagues took on him.

Here’s an excerpt that reminds us how drivers didn’t always walk away unscathed from 200mph crashes in practice only to drive in a race two days later.

And that, if it were not for some of the safety improvements that he campaigned for, often in the teeth of powerful personal abuse, we might still be witnessing deaths on a weekly basis:

On the opening lap he narrowly avoids a multiple collision and is lying third behind Jochen Rindt and John Surtees when he reaches the Masta straight. The visibility is appalling. He is travelling at 170mph. He heads towards the Masta Kink — a right-left-right swerve — and the car begins to aquaplane. It flies off the tarmac and flattens a woodcutter’s hut, then careers over an eight-foot drop on to the patio of a farmhouse.

A few moments later Graham Hill spins off the track on the same plaque of water, but catches a luckier break with the slide. As Hill prepares to rejoin the race, he spots the wreckage of his teammate’s car and leaps bravely to his assistance. “Jackie? Are you down there? Jackie?” Stewart groans, but is barely conscious. The American racer Bob Bondurant joins Hill at the scene. There is no rescue crew. There are no marshals with yellow flags.

Stewart is trapped. The fuel tanks have ruptured and flooded the cockpit; one spark from the electrics, and the drivers are toast.

After a frantic search for a spanner, they manage to unscrew the steering wheel and lift Stewart to safety. “Graham, get my clothes off,” he pleads. His overalls are soaked in high-octane fuel. He doesn’t want to burn. Read the full interview here…

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