Motor racing: Stewart make points in race for acceptance

Motor racing
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Many have, over the years, cast envious glances across the harbour to a new life. For Jackie Stewart and his cohorts, escape from Alcatraz is now a very real prospect.

Stewart told the world he was prepared to serve his time, commit his clan to hard labour, and earn his return to Formula One's high society. Just five races into his term, he and the rest of the Stewart-Ford organisation have a second place to show for their endeavours.

Rubens Barrichello's excellent performance, eclipsed only by the imperious Michael Schumacher and his Ferrari, in Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix, raised hopes in Stewart's camp of a base in the main paddock, alongside the established teams, rather than the cell in a remote back road unaffectionately known among inmates as Alcatraz.

At management level, this extraordinary success was seen as a powerful marketing weapon: a means of prising more sponsorship money, perhaps pounds 6m to pounds 8m of it, to add to the working budget of pounds 20m. Stewart have advertising space on their car available to the right bidders and so far the offers have not met their requirements.

Paul Stewart, son of Jackie and the team's managing director, said: "We have plans to grow and we're looking at big sums of money to achieve that. We have space on the car, but we've turned down smaller bids because we don't want to split up the space. We want the right deal.

"Motor sports is all about success, so any achievement is going to reflect well on the company and help us. People are not going to be knocking on our door, but this result means they will be more receptive. We have major partners, like Ford, and that is a big incentive, but we still have to find other money if we are going to be in a position to compete with the top teams.

"The Stewart name might open doors, but we still have to do business. It might be some people would like to see us fail, but if they consider long and hard enough they might feel this is good for the sport in general and the motor racing public."

Apart from any sponsorship this past weekend may have generated, the Stewart team have picked up useful prize-money, and travel and freight allowances. Not to mention the points to improve their chances of moving up Formula One's jealously guarded pecking order.

Stewart have jumped to seventh in the constructors' championship, immediately behind Jordan-Peugeot. Their fortunes should not have escaped the attention of Damon Hill, who rejected offers from both to sign for Arrows-Yamaha. Hill is still seeking his first finish of the year.

Not that his former team, Williams-Renault, performed any better here. Their decision to start the race on an obviously slippery track with slick tyres instantly conceded the initiative to Schumacher, and both Jacques Villeneuve and Heinz-Harald Frentzen were lapped before they hit barriers and retired.

Williams have had a propensity for howlers in their past and they admit to getting it wrong here. But blunders tend to be magnified when perpetrated by the best and Williams remain the team to beat. Although Schumacher and Ferrari head the standings, that could change at Barcelona on Sunday week. It would be typical of Williams to come back with a one-two.