It was a fair comeback, though Stewart's dream of becoming the youngest Grand Prix champion in the history of the sport is now almost certainly shattered. Brabham, having one of his best years and obviously driving the best car, one of his own design, has already accumulated enough points to virtually clinch the title for 1966.
Clark, the fellow Scot whom Stewart resembles in many ways, did not win a world-championship race until his third season, whereas Stewart, in his first season in Formula I cars in 1965, won the Italian Grand Prix, was second in three other Grand Prix and third in points behind Clark and Graham Hill on the season. Going on to Australia and New Zealand, Stewart got four firsts, a second and a fourth in eight races, breaking down the other two times, once while in the lead. Hill won two of these races (one of them with Stewart running second and not attempting to pass) and Clark only one. For whatever reason, they simply were not able to stay with Stewart most of the time.
"Jackie's riding the crest of a wave," says Hill thoughtfully. "He's got a lot of confidence." Hill is in the peculiar position of being 10 years older, a former world champion, the titular leader of the two-man BRM team—and possibly not as fast as this new boy wonder.
All of the drivers will tell you that the five fastest—indeed, the only five really fast Grand Prix drivers—are Clark, Hill, Surtees, Gurney and Stewart. A year ago many drivers had never heard Stewart's name. Graham Hill thinks that Graham Hill is the fastest driver, although he has to be forced to say so. "Every driver thinks that," Hill says. "That's the whole point of racing, really, to prove you're best. If you don't believe it, then you're prepared for defeat, aren't you?"
Stewart says flatly, "Jimmy's fastest. The other four of us are about the same."
There is no hostility between Hill and Stewart. They seem fond of each other, and the older man looks after Stewart to some extent. And, of course, he probably saved Stewart's life in the Belgian crash. But three weeks before that, in Monte Carlo, Stewart won the race handily, and Hill, running third with a disintegrating clutch, was trying so hard to catch Stewart that he spun out and nearly crashed. Then came Indianapolis. Stewart, who had been leading by 21 seconds ("it was like taking sweets off the kids"), got a standing ovation when he pushed his broken car into the pits on the 191st of 200 laps; Hill was regarded as having merely lucked into victory. Stewart was named Rookie of the Year, even though Hill, the winner, was a rookie there, too.
Hill will tell you that he is BRM team leader, that if he and Stewart are in the lead in a race and there is a gap behind them he will slow down to save the car. Stewart will drop back behind him, and Hill will then win the race. But in fact this situation did occur in the Italian Grand Prix last year and Stewart did not drop back. "I didn't know what the hell to do out there," Stewart says—but he won the race. On the final lap Hill tried so hard to pass him that Hill momentarily lost control.
"This year," says Stewart, "we are equals, and I'm trying just as hard to win as Graham."
Hill himself has never been called a natural driver, which is what everyone called Clark and is now calling Stewart. "Jackie is like me in one respect, I suppose," says Clark, "in that nobody ever had to teach him very much about driving a racing car. It came naturally."
Clark and Stewart both fell into top cars right at the start of their careers, whereas Hill's first four seasons were mostly spent driving dogs: "I had no money, no contacts." But he would hustle in every race. "Everyone could see I was trying, but when you're in a situation like that, nobody says you're a natural. The bloke in the lead is the natural."