The last time we had 26 cars

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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

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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36 comments on “The last time we had 26 cars”

  1. 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.

    1. 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!

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

  2. 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
    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. Haha, Gerhard Burger :)

  5. 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
    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..

    1. 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. ’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.

    1. 1994 was kind of ruined…

  8. 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!!

    1. HounslowBusGarage
      3rd May 2009, 22:07

      Don’t care if it’s off-topic. Well done yer man!

    2. Alright mate

  9. 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. ‘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.

    1. 95 was also the last year to use the traditional car numbering system. 3 & 4 for Tyrrell and 27 & 28 for Ferrari etc

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

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

    3. 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. 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. Look guys, a very interesting clip from 1995:
    Formula 1 1995 – Rollout

  13. This one’s even better:
    It explains the rule changes for 1995, as well as the thing with Nigel Mansell…
    Haha, he didn’t fit in the car.

  14. 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. 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…

  16. 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.

  17. 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 :-)

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

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

    1. 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.

  21. 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
    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.

    1. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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!

  24. I look forward to 26…

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