Believe it or not, but this isn't the first time the 1969, 1971 and 1973 Formula One world champion Jackie Stewart has visited India. The Buddh International Circuit is not the first, but the second road-racing circuit in India that the Scotsman has seen first hand. "I dug up the first bit of turf of the circuit near Chennai in 1985," said Stewart while speaking to HT. "I also used to visit India quite frequently from the 1970s to the 1980s," said Stewart. "Due to my relationship with Ford and Goodyear, I would come here quite often because Goodyear had plantations in South India."
Aside from the evolution of circuit racing in India, Stewart has also been witness to the safety drive that has transformed Formula One from a sport where the fatality rates used to be downright terrifying. "If a driver were to be in F1 for about five years back in those days, there would be a two-out-of-three chance of him dying, and that's a horrible batting average."
Stewart also revealed the apathy of the F1 governing body towards safety issues during the time he raced (between 1965 and 1973). "The authorities at the time just didn't care. But you saw the effects of driver fatalities on their wives, brothers, girlfriends…we saw that at Las Vegas recently," said Stewart referring to the death of former Indycar champion Dan Wheldon at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on October 16.
While not entirely certain of the best way for F1 to improve driver safety, Stewart is proud of the steps taken by FIA after the death of Ayrton Senna in 1994.
"We have the best risk management in any business, let alone any sport," said Stewart.
"The possibility of a projectile hitting a driver is a concern and we are some days away from resolving this, but I am sure something will be worked out."