‘I had death threats’ – Jackie Stewart opens up on being ‘unpopular’

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Jackie Stewart has admitted he received “death threats” and abuse while campaigning for improvements to F1 safety. The three-time world champion stressed he was “very unpopular” after pushing for circuits to close down to protect drivers.

The F1 legend was among others pushed to close down the tricky Nurburgring Nordschleife after Niki Lauda’s horror 1976 shunt. Speaking to Express Sport, Stewart said: “It was not popular. I was very unpopular. I had death threats,

“I had people coming to our house trying to throw stones to break our windows, all of these things. Clearly when you close the Nurburgring, the whole economy of the Eifel region is the Nurburgring.

“Hotels and restaurants and garages and all this. So all the Germans were coming from Switzerland as it’s close by to give Jackie Stewart a bad time. It wasn’t nice but it was the right thing to do. I’m not looking for any credit on that at all, it was just the period.”

Despite being one of the most successful drivers of his era, Stewart’s work as President of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) is legendary. He campaigned hard for the introduction of run-off areas and increased safety barriers at circuits.

The Scot also pushed hard for better medical treatment and emergency vehicles to help drivers involved in accidents. Stewart has previously claimed F1 needed to change to avoid the risk of being closed down.

He told Express Sport: “It had to be done because it was so bad. I think if we hadn’t done it. Motor racing could have been stopped by the insurance companies.”

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The Nordschleife was ditched from the F1 calendar after 1976, returning eight years later on a purpose-built Grand Prix track. Lauda’s fiery accident left the Austrian with third-degree burns across his head which required skin graft operations.

Revealing his thoughts on the Nordschleife track, Lauda described the layout as a “stone age circuit”. According to Autoweek, he said: “Some of them wanted to seem brave, others were simply too stupid to know what they were doing.

“I steeled myself to drive, although my brain kept telling me it was sheer stupidity. The antithesis between the modern-day racing car and the Stone Age circuit was such that I knew every driver was taking his life in his hands to the most ludicrous degree.”

Stewart is now streaming on Sky Documentaries and NOW TV.

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