The three-times former world champion was challenged earlier this month to prove his Stewart-Ford team had the financial resources to complete next season, a move seen as retaliation against comments he had made on the contentious issue of tobacco money in grand prix racing. Yet far from cowering in embarrassment, Stewart countered by informing FIA he would have the budget, even though, according to the governing body's rules, they were not entitled to demand such assurances.
Stewart delighted in making a show of introducing the Lear Corporation, one of the world's leading suppliers of automotive interior systems, and MCI, the telecommunications concern, as his latest long-term partners.
He said: "We welcome both the timing and the length of their commitment to what we are trying to achieve. Their partnerships are indicative of our growth as we enter our second championship year. We thank them for their confidence."
Stewart also revealed that tobacco companies have approached him to set up sponsorship deals, despite plans to phase out cigarette involvement. His was one of the few teams on the grid without any form of tobacco backing last year, but he has not discounted involvement in the future. "You cannot rule out an industry of that size," he said.
"We started off without a tobacco association, because two of our major partners asked us to. Recently, we have been approached by quite a few tobacco companies interested in coming along with us. The problem we have is that any tobacco company wants to have a dominant position on the car, but a lot of our key areas are already filled.
"Economically, we are totally stable with partners and sponsors and we have not had to go to the tobacco industry, but, even though we chose not to walk that road, it doesn't rule out it as a possibility for the future."Reuse content