From 1968 to 1973, Jackie Stewart won 25 world championship races and three titles. Ferrari had only eight successes in that period, but things could have been different if Enzo Ferrari’s plans for 1968 had materialized.
During 1967 with BRM, Stewart secretly went to Maranello to discuss a possible deal.
“It was like Star Wars compared to any other F1 facility,” recalls the Scotsman. “I was impressed, but I didn’t know what to do, so I said I’d think about it.”
“Enzo Ferrari wanted me to race in F2 as well as F1 and I said, ‘I’m racing for Ken Tyrrell.’ He said he would give us the engines if I wanted to drive the Matra, but it had to be red. I said it was blue, and we agreed it would be blue at the bottom and red at the top. It was an important deal. “
Before signing, Stewart went to Enna-Pergusa for a test of the F2 European Championship with his Matra teammate, Jacky Ickx, who asked him if he would accept the Ferrari offer. Stewart was shocked to find that Ickx had also been approached by the Scuderia.
“I said, ‘Well, in that case, you should get on that train because I’m not going to take it.’ Ferrari was already scaring me. I knew their reputation and their history with the drivers. Shell wanted me to go, and it was a good profit, but my decision was immediate. “
“I called Franco Gozzi and told him that the agreement had been blown. He replied: ‘But you shook hands with the Commendatore’. And I repeated: ‘Yes, and he shook my hand too, but Jacky Ickx told me that my seat was offered to him. ‘He replied:’ There must be a mistake. ‘But I commented:’ Well, it’s a mistake that tells me that I shouldn’t be racing for Ferrari ‘”.
Ickx went to Ferrari, while Stewart, Matra and Tyrrell joined forces and narrowly missed the title in 1968 before dominating the following year. When the Scuderia won again, Stewart had triumphed two more times with the Tyrrell and retired. But what if he signed?
First of all, one can imagine that without Stewart, Ken Tyrrell would never have founded his eponymous team, which means that one of the big F1 brands (not to mention cars like the six-wheeled P34) would never have existed.
Stewart’s career could also have been tougher. Rising star Ickx won the 1968 French Grand Prix and teammate Chris Amon did more laps in the lead than anyone but Stewart and Graham Hill that season, but bad luck denied him the title.
The 1969 season was mediocre for Ferrari, with Chris Amon hitting a single podium, while Ickx went to Brabham. The 1970 312B was more competitive than the March 701 that Stewart was facing, so Ickx was unable to close the gap on Jochen Rindt in the championship following the Lotus driver’s death at Monza.
Ickx had a particularly frustrating time at Ferrari, but could Stewart have galvanized the Scuderia like Niki Lauda did later? It’s impossible to say, but this is probably one of those cases where the pilot made the right decision. Ferrari certainly had more difficulties without Stewart than Stewart without Ferrari.
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