Stewart family exceed expectations

Derick Allsop on the father and son team with a new target for Sunday's British Grand Prix at Silverstone
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The Independent Online
Anyone seeking the premises of J Stewart & Son this weekend should simply follow the call of the pipes. Here is a family concern prepared to make a noise about trading in motor racing's high street.

The arrival of Jackie and Paul Stewart in Formula One as co-team bosses was never likely to be a quiet affair, their partnership with Ford representing a high profile alliance guaranteed the investment to match their ambition.

Stewart Snr, three times world champion, is renowned for his acumen in the market place as well as his ability in a racing car and now, competing with the Grand Prix megastores, he is advocating more pleasure with business.

Midway into the team's first season, Stewart's suspicions about the harshness of the Formula One environment have been confirmed. Hence his desire to sound a welcome at Sunday's British Grand Prix as symbolic as their tartan trews.

"It maybe no big deal for the people privileged to be within Formula One," Stewart said, "but for those coming in from outside it is a big deal and there shouldn't be a cloud over it. It should be one hell of a experience and it can be.

"I'd like a little more lightheartedness and softness about the place. We are not the men to front that at this stage, because we are a new team, but we may have a piper at Silverstone, just to soften the thing. That needs to be encouraged.''

The "softer" side of the Stewarts was evident when one of their cars, driven by the Brazilian, Rubens Barrichello, finished second only to Michael Schumacher at the Monaco Grand Prix, two months ago.

"The emotion of Monaco was intense for us," Stewart senior said. "I've never felt anything like that as a racing driver. We do get emotional and don't mind admitting it. We don't mind having a laugh and we don't mind having a cry."

He expanded on the differences between driving and running a team. "Everything I've ever done as a racing driver was insular, very self-centred. Because you go out there and get tremendous satisfaction from driving, even if the car lets you down, or you let the car down. You still come out with satisfaction knowing you've performed, even if you've not finished.

"For the people in the pit, the design staff, the people who put the finance together, the people who manufacture the car and everybody else in the team, suddenly their car hasn't finished. The constructor or entrant shares their feelings, which are very different from a driver's."

His son had a career as a driver but pulled up short of Formula One, instead embroiling himself in the development of Paul Stewart Racing, a highly successful team in the junior formulae. Graduation to Formula One, with Jackie luring partners and sponsors, from Ford to the Malaysian government, and Paul responsible for personnel and organisation, was the logical course.

Paul: "The decision to stop racing was a lot easier than people think and I have no regrets. I was honest about myself and my driving ability and based my decision on that."

Jackie: "We were on a shuttle flight from London to Glasgow when Paul told me he was going to retire from racing and I was taken aback. But I was happy and relieved, as any loving parent would be. For all the good things motor racing has done for me, you don't think of these when it's your own flesh and blood out there driving. It used to ruin my weekends.

"It's turned out to be a very good decision for Paul, as it has for me. I wouldn't have done it if I hadn't had a son in it, and I couldn't have done it on my own."

Paul: "It was different in our case because my father understood the dangers. A lot of parents are encouraging their children to go racing because they haven't experienced the pitfalls and don't appreciate what you have to go through.

"This job is certainly far more difficult and complex than ever it was when I was a racing driver. But I enjoy it more and believe I'll find it more satisfying and fulfilling. At no time do I see a car going out and think `I wish I was doing that'.

"I've always considered the pros of being `the son of' have outweighed the cons, so I've never really worried about the negative side. We get on great. I think we have our differences, but that's normal. It's healthy."

Jackie: "I don't think I've ever had to pull rank. I did have to point out to Paul that a Friday launch of the car was no good because you don't get print.

"We have always been a very close family - my wife Helen, Paul and our other son, Mark. I think I am so lucky we are doing something together like this, rather than having said `here you are darling, there's a million, go off and have fun and build your own wee company, but for goodness sake, don't lose it all because you'll not get any more."

So far, this substantial company has exceeded their expectations. The target of two points from the season was achieved threefold in that one race at Monte Carlo and the general level of performance, despite the disappointing form of the other driver, Denmark's Jan Magnussen, has sustained the sense of progress.

Jackie: "We are way ahead of our dreams and we've been really well received, particularly by the British public. You would have to expect the peaks and valleys nature of the season.

"Our target now is to get more finishes, and if we do that we have a chance of one or two more points. But that will take some doing when you consider the cars we have to beat."

One or two points at the British Grand Prix, which Jackie won in 1969 and 1971, would be particularly precious.

Jackie: "People invaded the track in the days when I won it. It's nice to do it in your own backyard and I suppose they'll be an edge to the team, but I don't know if I'll be any more nervous than I was at Monaco or the French Grand Prix."

Paul: "There is definitely more of a feeling among the guys and the factory staff for this one. They can relate to it more because it's their home grand prix and they want to come to it."

Jackie: "If we get in the points at Silverstone that will be fantastic. But that might be too much to ask. God's been very kind. We shouldn't bend his arm too much."