The last time we had 26 cars

David Coulthard spins out at the start of the 1995 Monaco Grand Prix

David Coulthard spins out at the start of the 1995 Monaco Grand Prix

There are many doubts over the FIA’s radical ‘budget capping’ plans for 2010.

However, their stated aim of getting 26-car grids into F1 is definitely good news – the only thing I can’t understand is why it’s taken them so long to realise bigger grids is better for the sport.

Amazingly, it’s 14 years since we had a 26-car grid at an F1 race.

The last time 26 cars lined up to take the start was at the Monaco Grand Prix in 1995. Only three teams have remained in the same form since then: Ferrari, McLaren and Williams.

Five have disappeared: Footwork (later Arrows), Ligier (later Prost), Forti, Simtek and Pacific. And five others are still with us in a different form: Benetton became Renault, Sauber became BMW, Minardi became Toro Rosso, Jordan became Force India (via Midland F1 and Spyker) and Tyrrell became Brawn GP (via BAR and Honda).

During that Monaco race weekend Simtek boss Nick Wirth admitted his team needed “several million dollars” to survive until the next round at Montreal in Canada. They ended up missing the race in the hope of attracting backers in time for the French Grand Prix – but two of the companies behind the team went into receivership and the cars were never seen on the grid again.

For many years, the FIA kept team entries down by demanding new entrants lodge a $48m bond with them. This was intended to promote ‘quality over quantity’ among F1 teams – but it was far more successful at restricting numbers than promoting quality entrants. Grid numbers dwindled to a meagre 20 cars at times. The bond was finally dropped at the end of 2006, but since then sky-high budgets have largely kept new teams from entering.

When so much effort has been put into ‘improving the show’ in recent years it is remarkable that there has been virtually no discussion of increasing the numbers of cars. Simply put, more cars means more action and more entertaining racing.

I can’t think why it is taken until now for the FIA to reverse its policy on teams numbers, and it’s hard not to suspect there might be an ulterior motive at work now that they have.

But as long as Max Mosley’s threats about F1 “not needing Ferrari” prove as empty as they sound, and we can gain new teams while keeping the current ones, I think a bigger championship will be a better championship.

1995 Monaco Grand Prix classification

1. Michael Schumacher, Benetton-Renault
2. Damon Hill, Williams-Renault
3. Gerhard Berger, Ferrari
4. Johnny Herbert, Benetton-Renault
5. Mark Blundell, McLaren-Mercedes
6. Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Sauber-Ford
7. Pierluigi Martini, Minardi-Ford
8. Jean-Christophe Boullion, Sauber-Ford
9. Gianni Morbidelli, Footwork-Hart
10. Pedro Diniz, Forti-Ford

Did not finish

Luca Badoer, Minardi-Ford (suspension)
Olivier Panis, Ligier-Mugen Honda (accident)
Mika Salo, Tyrrell-Yamaha (engine)
Rubens Barrichello, Jordan-Peugeot (throttle)
Bertrand Gachot, Pacific-Ford (gearbox)
Jean Alesi, Ferrari (accident)
Martin Brundle, Ligier-Mugen Honda (accident)
Taki Inoue, Footwork-Hart (gearbox)
Ukyo Katayama, Tyrrell-Yamaha (accident)
Andrea Montermini, Pacific-Ford (disqualified)
Eddie Irvine, Jordan-Peugeot (wheel rim)
David Coulthard, Williams-Renault (gearbox)
Roberto Moreno, Forti-Ford (brake pipe)
Mika Hakkinen, McLaren-Mercedes (engine)
Domenico Schiaterella, Simtek-Ford (accident)
Jos Verstappen, Simtek-Ford (gearbox)

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Image (C) Sutton

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36 comments on The last time we had 26 cars

  1. Damon said on 3rd May 2009, 18:16

    I remember the 1995 season like it was yesterday.
    I was an F1 fanatic back then, I watched all the qualifying sessions (there were 2 before each race), sunday morning free practice sessions and races live.

    I still find it easier to enumerate (out of memory) all the drivers, teams, cars, engines, tracks of the 1995 season than of any other season.

    I regret McLaren had a bad and unreliable car back then, and thus Nigel Mansell couldn’t compete against Schumacher and Hill. That would’ve made it a thrilling season – despite Prost and Senna being no longer there.
    Well, Nigel only filled in for Blundell for two races anyway :p Heh.

    Interesting to note:
    In the 1995 season, there were as many as 37 different drivers who at one point drove in an F1 race.

    • mf said on 6th May 2009, 10:51

      Weird. Exactly how I feel about 1995. Still seems so fresh in the memory.

      Love how a lot of betting shops still have that picture as well!

    • lol William Hill with an old pic of Ryan Giggs to boot.

  2. Damon said on 3rd May 2009, 18:18

    I still find it easier to enumerate (out of memory) all the drivers, teams, cars, engines, tracks of the 1995 season than of any other season

    …as well as race winners and point tables :)

  3. Bigbadderboom said on 3rd May 2009, 18:50

    I enjoyed 95, i remember it quite well (some of the late 90′s races kind of blur into one!) There were a few reg changes and if i remember rightly Mansell couldn’t fit in the McLaren to start with! McLaren re-designed it to fit him!! Some good races as well, the belgian race between schumi and hill sticks in my mind.

    It’s good to have 26 cars back on the grid for next year, I just hope all teams come in under the reg cap and we don’t have 2 tier racing. Lets hope F1 remains safe as well, motorsport is dangerous but it was the previous year (1994) the sport suffered the loss of Senna and Ratzenburger.

    It will make for some great racing, the last time we had 26 cars there was a spate of red flags, and some pretty hairy incedents.

  4. Damon said on 3rd May 2009, 19:05

    Haha, Gerhard Burger :)

  5. 159Tom said on 3rd May 2009, 19:14

    Those Ferraris were beautiful that year weren’t they? The last ones with the V12 screamers, the number 27 and no Schumacher.

    How many times were those Minardis, Footworks and Fortis lapped? That’s my only concern with these new teams – will they be near the pace? The whole field’s staggeringly close at the moment – the BMW that nearly won race 1 was clunking round at the back by race 4.

  6. Mussolini's Pet Cat said on 3rd May 2009, 19:21

    And look at all those DNFs on a relatively slow track compared to last week at Bahrain on a hot & fast track where only Kazuki Nakajima dropped out!!! I know it sounds silly, but i’ll kind of liked it when cars were more unreliable..

    • Mr Soap said on 3rd May 2009, 19:45

      You’re not alone – although I only remember the times when the drivers I supported had problems.

      But even more oddly, I miss the rather large performance gap between the front and back. The need for a driver to be able to cope with backmarkers is all but disappearing. Spa, 2000, Hakkinen overtook Schumacher though use of the traffic. 2001, Coulthard managed a similar trick on Schumacher. 1989 Mansell overtook Senna due to a backmarker in the way and Senna not coping. And then there’s instances like Montoya/Verstappen and Piquet/Salazar, where the backmarkers really made names for themselves

      I miss races where the leaders have to make their way through all that.

  7. taurus said on 3rd May 2009, 19:33

    ’95 had the best looking grid of cars of the modern era in my opinion. Hill v Shuntmaker was always a good battle, and there was only really one (Ferrari) non-privateer team.

    And of course, the legends Deletraz and Lavaggi drove in this season.

    Two qualifying sessions, morning warm-up, Marlboro advertising everywhere, Goodyear tyres… To me, that is F1.

    1994/95 are my fave seasons ever.

  8. Spud said on 3rd May 2009, 20:16

    Slightly off topic I know but lets hear it for Adam Carroll and Team Ireland!!!!!!!

    Well done lads. Great to see a successful Irish motor racing team again!!

    Woop Woop!!

  9. scunnyman said on 3rd May 2009, 20:17

    I’vegot to agree with all the fans here who are saying the FIA should get rid of the silly 2 tyre rule.
    Let’s get back to real motor racing please.

  10. Damon said on 3rd May 2009, 20:47

    ‘95 had the best looking grid of cars of the modern era in my opinion.

    Actually, the 95 cars belonged to the old era.
    1995 was the last season in F1 history with real low-nose cars. :( Ferrari, Jordan, Tyrell, Pacific, Simtek, Forti all had them.
    I loved the rivalry between the classical looking cars, i.e. with low noses, and the high-nose cars, which were the “new thing” back then.

    In 1996 low noses suddenly disappeared altogether o_O
    [the Ferraris had a low-nose, but switched to a high-nose early in the season, in Montreal]

    1995 was also the last year without the cockpit sidepods, which were introduced in ’96 and heavily modernized F1 cars’ looks.
    1995 was really the last season of classical looking F1 cars.

    Yes, mate, they were the last beautiful F1 cars indeed :)

    The modern cars era began in 1998 with the drastic changes that made the cars what they are to this day.

    • TMFOX said on 3rd May 2009, 23:14

      95 was also the last year to use the traditional car numbering system. 3 & 4 for Tyrrell and 27 & 28 for Ferrari etc

    • taurus said on 3rd May 2009, 23:56

      Fair enough – I said modern without realising 1995 was 14 years ago!

      It should be law that Ferrari cars wear number 27 and 28.

    • ajokay said on 4th May 2009, 11:11

      The best thing about 1995 was the colour schemes!

      We had purple and black Simtek cars, yellow Fortis, red Ferraris, blue and white Williams and Tyrrels, black and blue Pacifics (with a gold stripe), a red bull Sauber that looks very much like today’s RBR’s, Marlboro McLarens, the fresh alpine Benetton in white, blue and green. And that Minardi… black, white and fluro green. The Arrows was white with crazy blue, red, and sometimes vibrant pink pixel art, and the deep blue Ligiers.

      And of course the Jordan, which had a bit of every colour.

      Like a Dulux colour card, it was. And it was beautiful.

  11. sean said on 3rd May 2009, 20:59

    why did they have to change ,recently watched 93,94,95,on video OK if the salary cap gives us this type of racing bring it on.But even then those that had the most still won.
    Keith on a side issue could you do a series on “what ever happened to”ie jos verstappen I heard he had got very sick from brake dust.You watch these guy,s every week then they disappear.

  12. Damon said on 3rd May 2009, 21:46

    Look guys, a very interesting clip from 1995:
    Formula 1 1995 – Rollout
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0tGf9K0GOI

  13. Damon said on 3rd May 2009, 21:56

    This one’s even better:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPSQUSDAuNc
    It explains the rule changes for 1995, as well as the thing with Nigel Mansell…
    Haha, he didn’t fit in the car.

  14. Chalky said on 3rd May 2009, 23:11

    Great videos. They bring back memories.
    That McLaren was a horrible looking car. It’s quite funny when Mansell says “If it goes as quick as it looks”. I bet he wished he kept his mouth shut. :D

  15. Daniel said on 3rd May 2009, 23:14

    Great article… I started watching Formula 1 in 1991 and, in 1995, I was still learing to see it without Senna, hoping Barrichello would, someday, fill his shoes… He ran in a Jordan at that time, was 2nd in Montreal and, seeing the classification, I remember 25 out of the 26 names, but I really didn’t know Domenico Schiaterella was one of them… in fact, I’ve never heard of him, don’t remember him at all, despite being a Simtek pilot, a nice team, with its remarkable purple cars, with the MTV brand, that ran as high as 6th with Jos Vestappen in the Argentine Grand Prix…

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