DECEMBER 7, 1998
Stewart and Ford
THE Ford Motor Company last week announced that it has extended its contract with Stewart Grand Prix until the end of the 2001 season.
The announcement has done little to stop speculation that Ford will take over Stewart and there are still stories that Jaguar will enter F1 with a new team led by Tom Walkinshaw.
Certainly, even the pro-Stewart faction at Ford sees that change is necessary. Ford's Vice-President, AdvancedÊVehicleÊTechnology, Neil Ressler says that the team is making organizational and staffing changes, "placing greater focus on design, engineering and management".
Ressler was one of the prime movers in the decision for Ford to go with Stewart. His links with the team have strengthened in recent months and he recently became a member of the Stewart Grand Prix board and chairman of Cosworth Racing. He is, therefore, in a good position to argue for a Ford takeover of the team rather than a switch to Jaguar with another team. "We recognize that Stewart is still a young team with much to do," said Ressler, "but we are optimistic about our futureÊprospects."
It is not impossible that a change of ownership has already occurred as the shareholdings in Stewart are carefully hidden in a Jersey-based company called R&H Trust Company Ltd. This owns 51% of the team. One could speculate that the recent Jaguar rumors may have been a means of pressuring the Stewart Family into making concessions.
Whatever the case, Ford is not going to make much progress in Grand Prix racing unless it can separate sporting issues from political battles within the empire.