jackie stewart

George Harrison during the Traveling Wilburys recording sessions (previously posted on the blog here).

Photo © Genesis Publications

“I remember one time, at an airport, I was starting to worry whether we would get to the gate on time but George just smiled and said he wanted a cup of tea.
‘OK,’ I fretted, ‘but I don’t think we have time.’
'There’s always time for a cup of tea,’ he said.” - Sir Jackie Stewart on George Harrison, Winning Is Not Enough [x]

The above photograph was taken on the morning of the 6th October, 1973. 40 years ago today.

It was qualifying day of the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. Jackie Stewart had already wrapped up the world title - his third - and was secretly preparing to retire after this race, which would be his 100th. The leadership of the Tyrrell team would pass to the young Frenchman, Francois Cevert, who had spent three years learning everything from Jackie. 

They went out for morning practice. Jackie preferred to take the formidable Bridge complex in fifth gear - the lower revs made the car slower, but more docile and easier to handle over the bump just after the apex. Francois took the corner in fourth, at much higher revs. He lost control and the car smashed into the barriers on each side of the track, flipping over in the process. He was killed. The Tyrrell team withdrew from the Grand Prix, meaning Jackie retired on the spot with 27 wins to his name. Francois had just one - two years before, at the very track he died. He was 29 years old.

Rest in peace, Albert François Cevert Goldenberg. Wherever you are, I hope your eternal spring continues.

3

I first met George Harrison when the Beatles turned up at the Monaco Grand Prix in 1969.

George enjoyed motor racing and, in 1979, he released a single called Faster which, the cover explained, was “inspired by Jackie Stewart and Niki Lauda and dedicated to the entire F1 circus”.

The chorus ended:

No one knows quite how he does it but it’s true they say

He’s the master of going faster.

I can just see George sitting somewhere getting an idea in his head, then scribbling the words on the back of a cigarette packet. That was his genius.

We had fun shooting the music video for Faster, in which I made a cameo appearance as George’s chauffeur, wearing a white hat with a tartan band, similar to my old racing helmet.

I drove the Daimler while, on the other side of a glass partition, George sat strumming on his guitar, singing.

Our closeness seemed to confirm the old saying that opposites attract. While I like to organise my life with military precision, George took a more laid-back approach.

I remember one time, at an airport, I was starting to worry whether we would get to the gate on time but George just smiled and said he wanted a cup of tea.

“OK,” I fretted, “but I don’t think we have time.”

“There’s always time for a cup of tea,” he said.

If we had been dropped from the same height, George would have been a feather, drifting this way and that on the breeze; I would have been a lead weight plunging straight down.

There were times when we could have been living on different planets, when George was procrastinating and I would be all action, when he was wearing way-out clothes and I was traditionally dressed. But we were alike in paying fanatical attention to detail.

He could be amazingly fastidious, keeping his cars immaculately clean, working on a song until it was so precisely right that it would sound as if it had evolved out of nothing, dreamily and effortlessly.

We shared many wonderful times. On one occasion, when he was staying with us in Switzerland, we went to the French Grand Prix in Dijon. It was a clear, warm evening when we arrived home. Helen had prepared a barbecue, and Paul, who was 12 at the time, brought out his guitar.

George started to play, running through all the great Beatles hits, singing parts of the songs, explaining what the lyrics meant to various members of the band. I remember sitting there, thinking this had to be one of the greatest privileges anybody could have.

- Jackie Stewart