Sir Jackie Stewart: “Yas Marina is unbelievable”

Global ambassador Sir Jackie Stewart was a special guests at an RBS function at Dubai Autodrome on the eve of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. As always the legendary, three times World Champion, was in fine form and delivering his views on the current state of Formula 1.

On the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and Yas Marina:
Yas Marina is a fantastic development. In February 2007 I was there and we drove over a piece of land which is now where this amazing motorsport complex has risen literally from the dust. What we have now is a racing circuit unmatched in the world which will be staging a Grand Prix this weekend. A remarkable achievement that goes beyond motorsport. Unbelievable really.

Jenson Button’s worthiness as Champion:
Jenson had an amazing beginning of the season winning the first six of the seven races that were held. Clearly his car had an advantage over the competition at the time. But Jenson is a very mature driver, 29 years of age. I have a saying that you first have to gain experience to gain knowledge. With knowledge you gain wisdom. In my opinion a driver probably enjoys his best years at the age of 29 to 35, where he has experience and knowledge to get the wisdom which I believe he is now about to get.

The manner that he managed to win the world championship in Sao Paulo showed a bit of wisdom. He came through in difficult conditions, made some good passes and got the job done. Knew where he had to finish. Of course he would have loved to have won the race, but he would not have won that Grand Prix.

Having said he collected more points than any one else in the World Championship. I don’t think there can be any controversy about him being world champion.”

On today’s talent:
“I don’t think there has ever been a collective of such outstanding talent. Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber, Kimi Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso. All six could have easily been world champions. Timo Glock has all the makings. Rubens Barrichello nearly won it – that’s eight. Of that quality I don’t think there has ever been so many.

There are hundreds of millions of people who drive cars, maybe a few million with competition licenses, a few thousand who make some money out of it, maybe a few hundred who make proper money. Then there are 20 Grand Prix drivers, of those twenty, six or eight are really good. And of those, three are exceptional. Of the three there is normally one genius. But at the moment you cannot say Button is better than Hamilton or better than Vettel any of the others.

Generally in the history of the sport there have been outstanding drivers who led their generation. Juan Manuel Fangio was a leader, Jim Clark was a leader, maybe I was for a wee while, then maybe Niki Lauda, then maybe Alain Prost, then maybe Ayrton Senna, then maybe Michael Schumacher. There has always been one genius. But at the moment that genius has not appeared as yet. There is no one superstar as there was at these periods in time.

This is nice as it is a real open package. Renault are capable of doing it again, so also are McLaren, so also are Ferrari, so also are Brawn, so also are Red Bull. There are five teams, and not counting Toyota. So it is very healthy, the sport is in very good shape.”

On the Gulf region and motorsport:
“This region is very important to RBS as a business. I believe that in the next 20 to 30 years this region will have more liquidity than any other region in the world. I think the UAE, or Saudi Arabia or any others here are very important and RBS has to be here.

I think it is tremendous that there are two Grands Prix in the region. I have been to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia which is a modest race track in some ways and sophisticated in others. It is mainly used by people with very fancy cars who want to drive them in area which allow them to be exercised.

This is a region that has a great future in motorsport, there is a love affair here with the motor car, which perhaps surpasses a great many countries. So I think there is every reason to believe we will see a great deal more in the future.”

On next year’s rules:
“I think end of refueling is a good thing. It was a shadow hanging over us. You saw what happened in Brazil where it could have been bigger than it was, when the hose failed to disconnect. Petrol does not burn easily. It is the vapour, surrounded by hot engine, that causes the fire. It is a good thing that refueling has stopped. There will still be trye changes so that element remains.”

The end of KERS is good. It was hideously expensive to put the system in by the same man who took it out. That was just money down the drain. They talk about the economy of the world and limiting what people were spending, and then you tell them they must have KERS. I think McLaren quoted more than 70 million pounds. So with that gone things are back to normal. The other changes? I don’t know that they will have significant changes.”