The last time we had 26 cars

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

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