He is remembered of course for his three world championships (1969, 1971 and 1973) won with two different teams, and for being a pioneer when it came to safety in grand prix racing. He was among the first drivers to champion proper helmets with a chinstrap and campaigned tirelessly for protective roll bars – which these days are taken for granted but half a century ago would have saved several more lives. And the story goes that it was Jackie’s accident in Belgium, from which he emerged unscathed but was trapped in his car feeling fuel trickle on top of him, that made him so determined for motorsport to adopt safety fuel tanks capable of withstanding impacts and external naked flames.But his status as an icon manifested itself in other ways too. Today he still strides confidently through different grand prix paddocks around the world despite his 77 years of age, sporting the unmistakable trousers and cap made from his family tartan. Come rain or shine, upholding (Scottish) tradition is the key priority. Back in the 1970s, Stewart was practically a fashion icon as well. This led to companies such as Rolex adopting him as their brand ambassador, a position he still holds today.And then there was Helen. The racing world first knew her as Jackie’s girlfriend and later as his wife. She radiated beauty in a quintessentially British way: understated and subtle. Stylists flocked to her as a talisman for ladies’ fashion of the time. The photographs of Helen in the Tyrrell pits, stopwatch around her neck and impeccably dressed, will always remain among the enduring images of Formula 1® in that era. And it’s an image that remained largely unchanged, with Helen a constant presence at Jackie’s side on circuits all over the world, particularly when he headed up Stewart Grand Prix in the 1990s, only retiring after a well-deserved victory in 1999.
And that brings us up to today. But it’s a today with a taste of bitterness for the Stewart family. Because while the three-time champion is still a fixed presence in the paddock, his opinion sought after by media and his endorsement courted by some of the most prominent sponsors, Helen has not been seen for a while. And the reason is her diagnosis of senile dementia. She has been suffering from this for some time: treatment is helping but the future is uncertain. At Silverstone, Jackie spoke openly about the situation. “She has good moments and she has bad moments,” he said. “The worst part is her short-term memory; we have to stay very close to her.”
And by that Jackie Stewart also means creating a foundation dedicated to finding a cure for this terrible disease. It’s called Race Against Dementia, perfectly describing its mission statement. According to the British media, Jackie has already put in more than £1 million of his own money to fund the work of experts in the field. To support this project, Pirelli donated a stunning artwork at Silverstone. It’s a painting from renowned artist Paul Oz, who has carved out a strong reputation in the world of motorsport. The modernist work depicts Lewis Hamilton on the 2015 Russian Grand Prix podium, wearing his specially commissioned Pirelli Russian podium hat. The artist previously created a similar work, again featuring Hamilton, but this time wearing the instantly recognisable Pirelli cowboy hat following his win at Austin in 2014.Both Hamilton and Stewart have three world titles. So Silverstone, the home race for both champions, was clearly the ideal place to hand over this significant artwork to benefit Race Against Dementia: a charity that survives on donations, auctions and fundraising. A few photographs and a handshake between Jackie and Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery marked the occasion. Like everybody else is involved, Pirelli is proud to be supporting this important initiative, headed up by a great champion.