Stewart built his business career around the same qualities that made him a role model in Formula One:
- Renowned for his smooth driving style behind the wheel of powerful Formula One cars, Stewart used his insight to teach Ford employees and customers the fine points of performance driving with an innovative yet easy-to-understand experience called Formula Finesse.
- Competing during an era in which injuries and deaths in racing were commonplace, Stewart became a ceaseless advocate for safety improvements that are taken for granted today. He later campaigned with equal passion for greater seat belt usage and new safety technologies.
- Stewart built a reputation for providing his race team with insightful feedback about his racing car’s performance on the circuit. Generations of Ford engineers have since benefited from that insight, having learned from a master about how to evaluate products on the test track. Many of Ford’s development processes now reflect Stewart’s contributions.
- Stewart brought a new level of professionalism to the profile of the Grand Prix driver, and built on this stature in his post-racing career, epitomising the sport’s transformation from a purely sporting focus to a commercialised environment. He is at home not just on the test track but also in the board room, and has served the role as Ford’s special ambassador to both heads of state and television audiences via Ford commercials.
Known for his globe-trotting business style, Stewart devoted up to 135 days a year to the Blue Oval and its brands, ranging from intense vehicle test sessions to keynote speeches.
“One year, when product-development work was intense, I travelled 43 trans-Atlantic flights to America for Ford,” Stewart remembers. “Looking back, it was an immense kaleidoscope of experiences that gave me access to the decision makers, including six Ford chairmen starting with Henry Ford II and concluding with Bill Ford.”
“Jackie has always done business in the same way as he drives,” said Nick Scheele, President of Ford Motor Company. “Whether he is behind the wheel or sitting in a seat in the boardroom, Jackie Stewart operates with smoothness, finesse and perception that make his accomplishments seem effortless. We at Ford Motor Company could never ask for more than what he has already given us. He leaves an incredible legacy and a lasting friendship, both of which we will cherish.”
Stewart’s talent was spotted early by Ford when Walter Hayes, who would later become the godfather of Ford’s Formula One programme and Ford’s global head of communications, approached the young driver at a motor show in London in 1964. Hayes offered Stewart £500 to promote Ford products in 1965, along with the white Ford Zodiac that was the centrepiece of Ford’s exhibit to drive that year.
“I didn’t know who Walter Hayes was, but I did know that to have a contract with Ford Motor Company was a big deal with great opportunities for the future, even though I wasn’t yet aware that Ford would enter Formula One,” Stewart said.
Stewart values his professional and personal relationships with key Ford executives and members of the Ford family during his long association with the company.
He credits an uncompromising attention to detail and personal integrity and credibility as key contributors to his success with Ford.
“I never endorsed a product that wasn’t right,” he said. “Because I was so heavily involved in development activities, naturally I was able to communicate in depth about them. When I spoke to important dealers, the news media or the engineering community, they knew I wasn’t blowing smoke. That integrity made my message more believable to them.”
Stewart cites his work in teaching engineers critical vehicle dynamics evaluation skills as one of his most rewarding activities over the years with Ford.
“Just because you’re a good engineer doesn’t make you a good driver or vehicle dynamics analyst,” he said. “And just because you’re a good racing driver doesn’t make you a good analyst or communicator. I was fortunate to have the right combination and be able to share my capabilities with many Ford engineers. That certainly will be one of my most lasting contributions.”
Stewart’s ability to teach is symbolic of his broader achievements. Stewart himself had to overcome the disadvantages of learning difficulties and dyslexia from the time of his youth.
Stewart was awarded the United Kingdom’s Order of the British Empire in 1971 and knighted in 2001.Published 19 December 2004