The Formula 1 news world isn’t so slow that Niki Lauda is back on speed dial, but the signs suggest we are close: Sir Jackie Stewart is being dragged out and quoted.
And his take on the 2010 grid? It’s the “best field ever.” And Sebastian Vettel is every measure of Jim Clark.
I know my initial reaction is, “Sir Jackie, did they call you at the end of a fun evening?”
But it’s Stewart we’re talking about here. And while he likely is predisposed to give F1 a boost when he can, you can’t argue that he’s got the perspective and years to make such comparisons. Here’s what he had to say to Autosport:
“I think it’s the best field ever. Red Bull had a good car this year but right down to the last race there were four drivers battling for the championship, and there were five for most of the season really in contention.
“Up there was a Red Bull, a Ferrari and a McLaren, and a Renault pushing and shoving, so you cannot ask for much better than that. It was a long season and it came down to the very last race. It was close racing too.”
Was the grid really as strong as when he was racing?
“Absolutely. I think the animal is exactly the same. I don’t think Sebastian Vettel is any different from what Jim Clark was, or Graham Hill was, or Jack Brabham was, or people who have won the world championship more than once.
“These drivers are the same – all the same desire, want, focus, commitment and God-given talent that has been developed to the highest level.
“So they are not different as individuals, but we have a crop of them just now and we have got a little closer unification of the quality of the performance of the cars, so it is going to give us better racing – and I see 2010 was as good as the late 1960s/early 1970s.
“And 2010 was a great year, but 2011, because the same people are there with even more experience, I think it is going to be another great year.”
He also thinks Vettel will just keep getting better — improving with age. Stewart really fixates, and understandably, on Vettel’s just being 23.
I also really like Stewart’s summation of the top drivers on the grid:
“Mark Webber is 34. I know when I was 34, I was a better man than when I was 23, so therefore I think there is a lot more to come from Sebastian.
“Webber is still in there, and Kubica could one day be world champion. You also have Jenson driving in the smoothest and cleanest way of any driver, and Lewis is probably the best racer of the whole lot – and the best equipped is still Alonso. You have such a group of extraordinarily skilled people.”
Sounds about right, doesn’t it? But overall do you think Stewart’s seemingly congenital need to applaud F1 is overwhelming the reality of the situation? Is he overstating the quality of the drivers? And would you argue with his description of the top guys on the grid?