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FEBRUARY 2, 2006

Sir Jackie Stewart


Sir Jackie Stewart may be retiring from his role as president of the British Racing Drivers' Club but retiring is not a word one associates with the former World Champion and F1 team owner. Stewart continues to speak his mind on all subjects and we caught up with him recently to hear his views on the Formula 1 world at the moment.

In recent years Stewart has led the fight for better deals for the Formula 1 circuits and holds strong views on that subject.

"There is no shortage of money in Formula 1," he says. "It's still a question of the distribution of that money. How much comes back into the sport? I think that needs to be addressed. It needs to be not just for the teams. There is not a single race track in the world that hosts a Formula 1 race and is economically viable without considerable government assistance. And that is not correct. You won't get the best promoters or the best organizers when they are making a loss all the time, because their people have to be motivated. Their people ought to have to financial benefits from achievement and success. And when you lose money all the time, then you don't get bonuses even if you do a great job so there needs to be a really good promotion of F1. We are not doing that because we can't afford it. That has to change."

There is implied criticism of Bernie Ecclestone in these remarks.

"Bernie is still the ring master but I think he is 75 years of age and it doesn't go for ever," Stewart says. "I don't mean a case of life expectancy, I mean with energy with life style everything. I think some changes have to be made. If CVC do come in properly I thing that is another dimension because they are broader, wider thinkers than the narrow focus that somebody like Bernie has had. No matter how successful he is, there is not an enormous peripheral issue. So I think that is interesting."

And what about the FIA?

"I think they have struggled," he says. "They still cause what I would call controversy within the teams towards the regulatory body. I think there is more to be done there."

But essentially, it seems, Formula 1 in Stewart's eyes is pretty healthy and prospects for the 2006 season are exciting.

"Toyota and Honda are very well prepared," says Stewart. "Toyota are probably the largest financed company in F1. They have a reputation to defend because in a matter of months they will be the second largest if not the largest car company in the world. They have to prove themselves. Their people are very anxious to prove themselves butg they haven't got the two best drivers in the world, unlike other teams."

And what about Michael Schumacher?

"You can never count out Michael Schumacher- Ferrari combination," says Stewart. "They have got to prove that they are still capable of doing the job. Michael has got to try and bring himself back ahead of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen in the perception of the audience. That is a big task. There is a lot of pressure for him to deliver. I think there is only so much that you can hide for so long, you got to come out. It's a big year for him."