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. Oliver said on 4th May 2009, 0:24

    That picture you have up there Keith, I remember the start of that race. Coulthard, a bit inexperienced, was starting ahead of Alesi, and then he forgot the Amco curves to meet the cars as you go forward. He was trying to close the door on Alesi who really wasn’t trying to go anywhere. This then forced Alesi into the barriers at the same time as their tyres touched, pitching Coulthard into a spin. Conclusion. Rookie error from Coulthard.

  2. Oliver said on 4th May 2009, 0:26

    That picture you have up there Keith, I remember the start of that race. Coulthard, a bit inexperienced, was starting ahead of Alesi, and then he forgot the Amco curves to meet the cars as you go forward. He was trying to close the door on Alesi who really wasn’t trying to go anywhere. This then forced Alesi into the barriers at the same time as their tyres touched, pitching Coulthard into a spin. Conclusion. Rookie error from Coulthard.

    Its interesting you put coulthard’s retirement down to gearbox. I doubt he’d have gone any further with that broken front suspension and steering :-)

  3. Oliver said on 4th May 2009, 0:27

    Oh!!!

  4. Andrew said on 4th May 2009, 7:35

    The more cars the better, the way I see it. More competition. I love it.

  5. K said on 5th May 2009, 0:53

    Well all these comments seem to be lovey-dubby saccharine doe-eyed reminiscence of a “simpler time” where folk were “good and honest” and an F1 cars were “classical” and the grid looked “like a Dulux colour card”. Ahhh it’s sickening I mean come on for heaven sake most of the cars were obese and had liveries that looked like sick I mean really the Forti yellow was hideous and the Jordan looked like it was painted by someone on acid. Damon Hill, possibly the worst driver to win an F1 championship, proved what a useless driver he was by failing to win the championship in a superior car. Mansell was a failure, the Ferrri V12 was totally outclassed by the Renault V10 and Imola and Monza were neutered (albeit for fairly sound safety reasons). Yeah I liked the fact that half the cars didn’t finish a race the attrition made the races more dramatic but let’s not go all rose tinted and pretend it wasn’t down to poor design, engineering and manufacturing standards.

    !995 was a great season don’t get me wrong, the racing which is surely the most important thing was of epic quality, Schumacher’s drive at Spa for example, but I’m not sure how much of that was down to having 26 cars as opposed to 20. In the last couple of years, this season included, the grid has been closer than it’s ever been, it’s been more competitive than ever and if you care to look down the order during a race the midfield battles have been bigger and more hard fort than at any other time I can remember. I enjoy that competitiveness and I’m not sure I really want to return to the days when most of the teams were there merely to finish and were basically just high speed advertising boards. I don’t agree with the statement:

    more cars means more action and more entertaining racing

    That statement doesn’t take into account the competitiveness of the cars, the ability of the drivers or the role of TV.

    I do however agree with Keith when he hints at the possible political implications of three more teams which may well see the most significant consequences of the change.

  6. Steve K said on 5th May 2009, 3:28

    With the manufacturer backing dwindling in this economy, they have to make it easier for new independent teams, or the sport will go away. Its all cyclical.

    • More like the manufacturers are challenging the Bernie & Max hegemony by asking for more money and wanting to do things that will actually please the fans so Bernie & Max want new teams to come in and support their stupid ideas and marginalize the manufactures.

  7. The Limit said on 5th May 2009, 5:20

    This is good news for the sport. It amazes how F1 has a habit of going full circle. This year we are back on slick tyres, a more refreshing, vibrant championship, and big noses being put well out of joint.
    More cars does add to the drama. 1995 at Monaco was the classic example, watching all those machines trying to make the first corner as one, with Coulthard coming off worse. We want to be entertained, and that was great
    entertainment.
    One, on hearing this news, has to be reminded of Nigel Mansell’s recent comments about Hamilton’s title being less as impressive as his as he had to race more cars.
    A bould statement from Nigel, and a bit unfair to Hamilton, Raikkonen, and Alonso, as they cannot dictate how many cars should be on the grid.
    However, ‘monster’ grids usually means more backmarkers, making the lead drivers race far more
    hazardous. Who could forget Aryton Senna crashing into a backmarker in Monza back in 1988, or the huge shunt at Paul Ricard at the start that took out so many machines.
    My fingers are crossed, that maybe, just maybe, F1 will return to using v10 or even v12 engines. Up until recently, I was convinced that this would not happen. After a few years of v8′s, whats the odds that the FIA will change the rules again?
    To have the v12 howlers back would be amazing. I think every fan in the world loved those, even people who hated F1 atleast appreciated the sound of the v12′s.

    • Nigel Mansell’s recent comments about Hamilton’s title being less as impressive as his as he had to race more cars

      Yeah because Moda, Brabham, Fondmetal, Jordan and Minardi were really cleaning up those points and challenging the ‘Tash. 1992 had 5 different winners compared to 7 in 2008 and 1 point separated the top two drivers at the end of ’08 compared to 52 in 1992, which do you think was the more competitive season?

      The big change with back-markers is the blue flag rule and it’s enforcement. Senna crashed into a back-marker in Monza because the back-marker wasn’t obliged to get out of the way and so it was much harder for Senna to pass.

  8. Baz said on 5th May 2009, 8:35

    As much as I would like to see 26 cars on the grid, if it’s a choice between ‘no budget capping’ or ‘more cars on the grid’, then I choose ‘no budget capping’. It now appears that in F1, employing the best accountants in the world is equally as important as employing the best racing driver if you wish to win the world title. Of course, I’m looking forward to seeing the first team being hauled up in front of the WMSC for being in breach of article 151c because they were running a different fiscal year to the other teams.

  9. DGR-F1 said on 5th May 2009, 8:36

    Before we all get carried away with congratulating Mad Max and his bullies into finding a way to increase the grids, maybe, we must remember that so far no team has actually said it WILL be on the grid next year, and that they are all still investigating the possibilities of joining Bernies little circus.
    Also, although the budget cap will bring the costs of running an F1 team down, there has been no reduction in the cost of FIA Superlicences, no reduction in FOM entry fees and certainly no reduction in the level of fines imposed recently.
    Lets be level-headed about this, and wait and see who, if anyone signs on with Max and Bernie next year. It would be nice to see more cars on the grid, but everything comes with a price these days!

  10. Chaz said on 5th May 2009, 17:01

    I look forward to 26…

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