INTERVIEW-Motor racing-Stewart relaxed about being passed by Hamilton
By Alan Baldwin
MEXICO CITY, Oct 28 (Reuters) – Jackie Stewart may only have one day remaining before Lewis Hamilton overtakes him and becomes Britain’s first four-times Formula One world champion but the great Scot says he is relaxed about it.
“I’ve always said it, records are made to be broken,” the triple title holder told Reuters at the Mexican Grand Prix where Mercedes driver Hamilton is on the brink of winning the championship with two races to spare.
“I remember when Alain Prost broke my record of 27 grand prix victories (in 1987). For me, already I had it then for 14 years. So it was no loss to me.
“And now it’s 44 years since I did it (became a triple champion). Of course somebody is going to have to break the record, I just hope there’s more British drivers coming along,” added the 78-year-old.
Hamilton has a 66-point lead in the championship over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and needs only a fifth-place on Sunday, even if the German wins, to begin the celebrations at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
The Briton — winner nine times already this year and with five victories in the last six races — has said he wants to do it in style, standing on top of the podium rather than just scoring the points he requires.
Stewart needed only a fourth place to take his third title with Tyrrell in 1973 and he recalled how fraught that Italian Grand Prix at Monza had turned out to be.
“I had a puncture on the second or the third lap. Wheel changes then were very slow and I started off way at the back of the field and came through to finish fourth. And I got the championship,” he said.
The Scot retired at the end of that season, having also won the title in 1969 and 1971, after 99 races with 27 wins and 17 pole positions.
Hamilton now has 62 wins from 205 starts with a record 72 podiums and counting. He also holds the record of 117 front row starts.
Different eras are hard to compare, however.
Stewart’s time was one where driver fatalities were commonplace and drivers could expect a number of funerals throughout their career.
It was also a time where the machinery at a driver’s disposal was more equal.
“I was lucky to have Ken (Tyrrell) but the great thing in my period that I felt was important was that we all used the same engine. So that everybody was more clearly at a same level,” said Stewart.
“My championships, from my point of view, I’m very proud of because at that time we had some of the best drivers in the world. The whole bunch, Jack Brabham, Graham Hill, Francois Cevert, Jochen Rindt, it was a great group of very good drivers.
“But what Lewis and Mercedes have done is just amazing,” added the Scot.
“He truly deserves to have won the world championship again. The team is first class, the car is obviously amazing and he’s driven it really well.”
“I am still the record holder for Scotland,” added Stewart, who has one more championship than his late compatriot Jim Clark. “I don’t feel any loss of it at all. I’m completely relaxed about it.” (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)