Sir Jackie Stewart: How F1 could help cure dementia

Cars

He’s a living legend in the Formula 1 world and Sir Jackie Stewart wants to use his high profile, combined with the “fastest problem solving” culture of racing, to help fight a cause very close to his heart – dementia.  
Sir Jackie Stewart greets fans on the Melbourne Walk prior to practice ahead of the Rolex Australia Grand Prix, 2023 | Image: Clive Mason via Getty Images

As more than half a million spectators come together this weekend for the 2023 Rolex Australian Grand Prix, legends of the sport, such as Scottish born Sir Jackie Stewart – a three-time FIA Formula 1® Drivers’ World Champion- like to support the brands and causes that are meaningful to them, as well as offering some pearls of wisdom to up and coming drivers.

Sir Jackie – who has worked with luxury watch brand Rolex for 56 years–  first raced in Australia in 1964 and has since been here “too many times to count”. He told Forbes Australia at the Rolex suite that at the grand age of almost 84, he will attend 16 to 18 Grand Prix’s this year.

But trying to fundraise through his foundation Race Against Dementia – which is supported by the F1 – is the “biggest thing I’ve ever done”. “It’s the biggest cause of death in the world today…bigger than cancer.”

Sir Jackie told Forbes Australia that his huge public profile has given him the opportunity to help fund dementia research through Race Against Dementia.

“Formula 1 is the fastest problem solving business in the world. That’s why I think it can help with dementia.

F1 legend, Sir Jackie Stewart

“My wife has unfortunately got dementia. She has had it for seven years,” he said. “The reason I do it is because there is no cure for dementia. There hasn’t been one for 70 years – can you believe that, in our modern world? I want to have a cure in my lifetime.”

While formula one and medical research might not seem like a natural fit, Sir Jackie believes that “thinking on your feet”, highly-adaptable nature of the sport is hugely complimentary to dementia research.

“There was a Grand Prix two weeks ago in Saudi Arabia and there was one before that in Bahrain. There would be a minimum of six major changes in those cars in both of those Grand Prix’s and sometimes they get a week for a new component to be done – that doesn’t happen in aerospace, it doesn’t happen in any other industry.”

Fi legends, Jackie Stewart and Mark Webber at the 2023 Rolex Australia Grand Prix | Image: Mark Peterson via Getty Images

During last year’s Grand Prix, around $600,000 was raised for Race Against Dementia at a dinner of around 70 influential people. This year’s dinner will have around 100 people.

Sir Jackie says at these fundraising diners, which are often held during Grand Prix’s throughout the world, the funds raised are invested directly back into research fellows in universities within the countries where they money is raised. So far, Race Against Dementia, has funded research fellows in Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney. It has 14 funded research fellows in total around the world.

“Helen now can’t walk. This is a girl I married 60 years ago. Two days ago it was 66 years since we met in Dino’s Radio Café in Helensburgh, Scotland and we’ve been together ever since.

“These guys here in Formula One just change things so quickly. We now take these PhD’s that we work with to the factories at Red Bull and McLaren and let them see how problem solving is created in a totally different way. With that expertise I think we can find a cure in my lifetime.”

More from Forbes Life