In an era in which morality appears to be conspicuous by its absence, Sir Jackie Stewart has perhaps surprisingly contended that the human element of F1 remains ever much as it was back in the days of Sir Stirling Moss or Juan-Manuel Fangio – and whilst the technology is now a different world, he insists the sport has always been one to push back the boundaries.
F1 has been plagued by high-profile, damaging scandals in recent years, from the 'Singapore-gate' race-fixing controversy – in which Renault chiefs Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds instructed Nelsinho Piquet to deliberately crash out of the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix and effectively endanger lives in order to help team-mate Fernando Alonso to win the race – to Lewis Hamilton and ex-McLaren team manager Dave Ryan lying to stewards in Melbourne in an effort to get Jarno Trulli demoted from the podium and inherit the Italian's hard-fought third place.
Moreover, in 2008 former FIA President Max Mosley found himself embroiled in a tabloid sex expose after he was pictured in a Sunday newspaper in an underground 'torture dungeon' with five prostitutes, and the previous year McLaren was fined a sporting record $100 million for having been found in possession of confidential data belonging to arch-rival Ferrari, in an episode that would become known as 'Spygate'.
Some have argued that in pushing to the nth degree in order to steal a march on the opposition, lines are inevitably occasionally crossed – but Stewart, who lifted the drivers' laurels on three occasions between 1969 and 1973, reckons little has truly changed from the halcyon days of yore. It's just more widely reported now, he reasons.
“It's different, and it's not different,” the Scot told Crash.net Radio
in an exclusive interview. “I describe it quite often like this. Clearly the technology changes have always been there; if you look back to the twenties and thirties, you see that it was star wars. When Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union were taking over from Alfa Romeo and Bugatti, they were star wars, like modern grand prix teams such as McLaren and Ferrari and Williams today, with their fancy wind tunnels and aerodynamics and so on.
“The same step came after World War Two, when Ferrari and Maserati led the world, and then suddenly Cooper and Lotus led the world. Ferrari is the only one that's kept going since, let's call it, the fifties or late forties. The technology has always been a moving target, but the human element has stayed very similar. I always say the animal has turned out to be the same. I don't think Jenson Button or Lewis Hamilton are any different to Jim Clark or Jackie Stewart or Stirling Moss or Juan-Manuel Fangio. I think they're all the same animals.
“Formula 1 has always been quite global – they raced in Australia, in New Zealand, in Latin America, in Argentina for example and even in Cuba, and in all the European countries – but it's just become bigger, and television has been the catalyst for that. Because of television, the commercial ramifications have made it more global. We've had Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Honda, Toyota, Ford, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Renault, Peugeot – they're all major global companies – and then you think of the Shells and the Mobils and the Petronas' or the BPs at one point, and I brought financial services in like HSBC and later RBS. The same goes for Vodafone and Telefonica.
“That all makes it even more global, because the stars and their cars are projected all the time around the world. You have watch companies, with Rolex using me, and you arrive in Malaysia and there are big banners of Lewis Hamilton with a Tag Heuer watch on, or in Time
a Jackie Stewart advert occasionally. All of that commercial element has expanded the sport far beyond any other sport in the world, and it's been an enormous success as a sport and therefore for the people associated with it too, because you become a global brand.”
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