Cats among the
but sees bigger futures for the new generation than already made their names… Jackie Stewart shares some thoughts on the British racers this weekend, for those who have
ccB ritish motorsport is probably responsible for more people on the Formula One grid than anything else. Certainly than any other country in the world. Because that’s where they come for their apprenticeships and their schooling, and that’s the great currency that Britain has…”
Jackie Stewart is off on a familiar tack, but as usual his words make sense, especially at a time when the economy is beginning to pick up but British companies fight shy of the sort of investment in motor racing that has grown Italy and France fresh generations of stars year after year.
“There have been periods in racing where all of the good work that we’ve done has been spent on drivers from others countries who have used Britain as a tool of learning,” continues the Scot, warming to his theme. “Britain has been slow to financially support its own talent coming along. Almost in spite of it . . .”
Does he now see that changing? “I would like to think so. I myself am doing more and more speeches to marketing societies, to the Institute of Direc
tors. To invited, targeted audiences from the large agencies such as I.Walter Thompson, for example, where I did a speech at the end of June to some of the chief executive officers and marketing heads of some of the largest companies who operate out of the United Kingdom. The only reason I’m doing those, is to try and get the word over. Whether Paul Stewart Racing is going to benefit in any way or not, is almost incidental. I mean, hope it might one day benefit to some extent, but the chances are that it’s going to influence other people to look more seriously at motorsport as an option.
“So therefore, in spite of the fact that in the past Britain has not supported its young talent the way that Brazil or Italy or France have, we find ourselves with Martin Brundle for example. He’s a very workmanlike driver, who now drives in probably one of the four most important Formula One teams in the world. He’s driven almost everything since his very big year of Formula Three as Ayrton Senna’s big rival, so he is a very competent driver. You then have Damon
Hill, who is now a multiGrand Prix winner. He’s come through the hard way, through having no money at all, and struggling right through until the Frank Williams test contract. “You’ve got Mark Blundell, who’s now driving a Tyrrell that might have the best chassis that it’s had, and engine combination, for maybe the last 10 years. He’s already shown that he’s quick enough in a Ligier and I think he is a
a very talented driver.
“David Coulthard is coming along, and he is certainly going to get some more Formula One races in I 994 at least, and will obviously be viewed by others because I think he will show himself to be valuable. And I think he is one of the new generation who have come along, and that new generation is better prepared today. . .”
Coulthard’s Grand Prix debut in Spain was totally self-assured and highly impressive by any standard, but Stewart is hardly surprised, having helped to steer the younger Scot in the right direction at a key stage in his career.
“Well, that’s because I think he was brought up the right way. That’s not for me to say that, but I really believe it’s a fact… He was a very easy student.
“Then you’ve got Eddie Irvine, who’s obviously got the spirit. He had a sort of stall at the end of his F3000 programme, had to go to Japan, earned a lot of money there and got some self-assurance back in the cockpit which he never seemed to miss outside the cockpit. He’s still a quick driver and still a good driver.
“Look at Johnny Herbert, who, at the present time is a bridesmaid, but could one day be more than a bridesmaid . . .
“All of those drivers, however, we have to look at including people like Derek Warwick, who doesn’t have a drive right now. However competent they are, we’ve got to differentiate between being very good to get where they are because to be one of 26 drivers in the world to drive Grand Prix cars is in itself an enormous success and being good enough to go all the way. Because what makes the difference from being the World Champion or the multi-World Champions, you know, whether you think back to the Mosses, the Hawthorns, the Clarks, the Hills, the Stewarts, the Hunts, John Watson, Nigel Mansell? To get to that level takes so much, and I don’t know whether the established group has it. Because apart from Damon, the others have been there long enough to have been chosen by very big teams if those very big teams really thought that they couldn’t do without them.”
Coulthard, he admits, is his possible exception, “because in his case the jury is still very much out and he is probably the one that I would point out to have the best chance.” Stewart concedes a vital point: Both Hill and Coulthard came in virtually at the top level with Williams, the former after just one part-season of scratching round in a Brabham while testing for Williams. Neither of them has really had to go through the confidence-sapping angst of pedalling a totally uncompetitive car and watching their reputation slide from comingman to the point where they are just accepted as another part of F I ‘s furniture. Michael Schumacher is the greatest exponent of this particular art in recent times, vaulting
insouciantly into Fl with Jordan back at Spa in 1991, and then being swept immediately into the Benetton machine without so much as a backward glance. So far, there have been no setbacks of any description, and his confidence has literally soared with every successive race. “The British guys have to say, ‘That’s the situation,’ and you must see it straight in the face. You must see it as it is. I think Damon still is capable of going out and winning a Grand Prix, as has been demonstrated. He’s done it. Okay, he’s been driving a wonderful car. You know, we’ve all driven wonderful cars at one time or another. But I think it’s a worthwhile comparison to mention that because there is no point in us pumping the boys up if you don’t really look at it objectively and say look, ‘They’ve been around a while now.
It’s clear that Stewart has already begun to shift his focus to the new generation rather than the old, and he has no doubt that Coulthard has all it takes to go to the top. “Yeah, I do,” he says reflectively, almost sotto voce. “I think he’s got it. I think he’s got a lot of it. I like him. And I like de Ferran, Barrichello, I’m talking about the young drivers now. I think Kelvin Burt is very good, too. I’d have loved to have had him in F3000 this year. Nothing would have pleased me more. But we just didn’t have any financial opportunities. We haven’t seen him in a proper car yet . .” He pauses. The gut feeling? “I think he’s very good. He’s certainly got the talent behind the wheel, and he’s a very good strategist in a car. He was the most self-assured Formula Three guy that we’ve ever had. Even beyond David. Knowing when he wanted to do it, and how to do it. And when he
didn’t know, he admitted immediately that he was lost and he got help.1 have a very high opinion of him.”
He’s careful not to say too much about Coulthard “Here he is,” he said in Canada, “in his second Formula One motor race, at a circuit he’s never been on . . .” But . . . Now that the Old Order has changed in Formula One over the past two seasons, you sense that Stewart is all in favour giving the new kids on the block full rein to their talent, no matter how unsettling that might be for the old hands who’ve patiently been waiting their own chance after failing to jump straight into a top seat at the outset of their Fl careers. DAVID TREMAYNE