Jim Clark must be celebrated as the greatest British Formula One driver of all time, Sir Jackie Stewart has claimed on the 50th anniversary of his compatriot’s death.
Two-time world champion Clark was killed following a horrific crash during a Formula Two race in Germany half a century ago on Saturday.
Clark was aged only 32, but at the time of his death he had won more races than any other driver, with a record of 25 victories from the 72 grands prix he started.
Lewis Hamilton could win a fifth world crown this season to draw level with Juan Manuel Fangio and sit only two shy of Michael Schumacher’s all-time record haul of seven championships.
But Stewart, who shared a London apartment with Clark, ranks his fellow Scot second only to Fangio as the best grand prix driver in the world.
“Jim Clark is certainly the finest I ever raced against and I would put him at number two in the world,” Stewart told Press Association Sport. “I would have Fangio as the best, with Alain Prost third.
“Jimmy was unique. He was honest, modest and a complete gentleman. He was also a very, very good racing driver and he carried the sport with dignity and style.
“He would not have changed for the modern world, but he would have been just as dominant.
“For a fair length of time I thought Sebastian Vettel was driving in that fashion, but then he had a couple of incidents that Clark would never have had, such as his collision with Mark Webber at the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix or Singapore last year (when Vettel crashed out).
“Jimmy would not have been in that type of incident because that was not the way he drove.”
Clark, who spent time away from the glare of motor racing at his farm on the Scottish borders, lost control of his Lotus in an F2 race at the high-speed Hockenheim circuit. He collided with the trees and died instantly.
An investigation into his death, which sent shockwaves round the sporting world, returned an inconclusive verdict, but it is suspected a deflated right-rear tyre was the contributing cause.
“When Jimmy went off the road, there was nothing to stop him driving into trees of all sizes,” added Stewart.
“The car was totally destroyed, but it was almost certainly not a driver error.
“Jimmy’s death had a huge effect on the sport because, in God’s truth, if Clark was going to be killed, nobody was safe.
“He just didn’t go off at all. He knew how far he could go with his car and he wouldn’t abuse it.
“I can only ever remember him having one accident at Brands Hatch, and it was human error. Outside of that you never saw him spin or go off the road, but he was still the fastest of his time.”