F1’s last race with a full grid

1995 Monaco Grand Prix flashback

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The last Formula 1 race to feature a full grid of 26 cars took place on this day in 1995. The Monaco Grand Prix, round five of the championship, was contested by 13 constructors each fielding two cars.

The collapse of the Simtek team following the race left Formula One without enough cars to fill the grid – a situation which has persisted ever since.

The race saw the continuation of the rivalry between reigning champion Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill, who had been runner-up the previous year. Ahead of the most prestigious grand prix of the year, each had won two of the previous four races and Schumacher led Hill by a single point.

Mansell departs

The organisers had expected to see two world champions among the 26 drivers, but that changed just days before practice was due to start. In a far from unexpected move, McLaren announced Nigel Mansell had stepped down from the team.

Mansell had returned from IndyCar racing part-way through 1994 to perform as an occasional substitute for the late Ayrton Senna at Williams. After winning the final race of the season at Adelaide, Mansell was expected to make a full-time return with the team, but instead they selected the inexperienced David Coulthard.

In a situation not unlike this year, McLaren was embarking on a difficult first season with a new engine supplier – in this case Mercedes. Title sponsor Marlboro was anxious not to miss the opportunity to sign a world champion, and pressed for Mansell’s appointment alongside Mika Hakkinen.

The marriage did not last. At the launch of the inelegant MP4-10 the assembled media wondered why Mansell was perched on the side of the car instead of sat in it. The rumours he couldn’t fit in the cockpit were later revealed, embarrassingly, to be true. He missed the opening rounds in Brazil and Argentina while McLaren constructed a chassis wide enough to accommodate his frame.

But once Mansell returned, he did not enjoy what he found. The car handled poorly, and the team’s young charge ran rings around him. After two unhappy appearances at the San Marino and Spanish rounds, the 1992 world champion bade farewell to F1. Mark Blundell, who had stood in for him at the beginning of the season, returned to the cockpit.

There was another change in the field from the previous race. Twelve months earlier Karl Wendlinger had been left in a coma after crashing at Monaco’s harbour front chicane. Wendlinger had returned to the Sauber team at the beginning of 1995 but with team mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen out-qualifying him to the tune of two seconds all was clearly not well.

Rather than subject him to the pressures of competing at the track which maimed him the year before, Sauber swapped him for Williams test driver and reigning Formula 3000 champion Jean-Christophe Boullion.

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Inoue inverts

In previous seasons ‘qualifying’ had meant exactly that: as there were more cars entered than there were places on the grid, the purpose of qualifying (and sometimes pre-qualifying) was to eject the slower entrants. This ceased to be the case at the end of 1994 as the Lotus and Larrousse teams collapsed. Only the arrival of Forti meant there were enough cars for a full grid.

The last driver to occupy 26th place on an F1 grid has his preparations for the race wrecked – quite literally – by a shocking lapse on the part of the organisers.

Taki Inoue spun at Mirabeau during the Saturday morning practice session and had to wait until the chequered flag had fallen to be recovered by a tow truck. While this was happening rally driver Jean Ragnotti was treating an FIA delegate to a high-speed tour of the circuit. Arriving at the Swimming Pool complex, where the entrance was blind, Ragnotti slammed into Inoue’s car with enough force to flip it over.

Inoue – who fortunately had his helmet on but unfortunately was not strapped in – was thrown clear. His car’s roll hoop was too badly damaged for the chassis to be used so the organisers permitted him to use his spare car. This proved academic, as Inoue was not ruled fit to drive again until Sunday, so he remained rooted to the bottom of the times sheets.

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Hill heads frantic session

Berger joined Coulthard on row three
Rain disrupted Thursday’s first qualifying session but the decisive hour of action on Saturday was dramatic.

Gerhard Berger hustled Ferrari’s last V12 car around the circuit to dramatic effect, but his efforts were only good enough for fourth on the times sheet. Before the end of the session he had to give his car up to team mate Jean Alesi, who had suffered an hydraulic failure on his car. But Alesi’s attempt to recover the provisional pole position he held after Thursday was thwarted when Eddie Irvine smashed his Jordan into the barrier at Tabac.

Schumacher and Hill had traded best times but it was the Williams driver who came out on top. Coulthard took a strong third on his debut in front of the two Ferraris. Next was Schumacher’s team mate Johnny Herbert, who had discovered that the flow of information at Benetton only towards Schumacher, and not from the world champion to his team mate.

Benetton’s priority in the opening races had been to regain their lost initiative. Despite having joined Williams in using Renault’s powerful V10 engine, ahead of the Spanish round designer Pat Symonds admitted Schumacher was having a much more difficult time than he had 12 months ago, when he swept to victory in the first five races.

Schumacher won the season-opener at Interlagos, but only after a suspension problem eliminated Hill. The Williams driver responded with wins at Buenos Aires and Imola – Schumacher crashing out of the latter.

The fourth round at the Circuit de Catalunya was Benetton’s breakthrough – Schumacher won from pole. But Hill, who lost precious points with a last-lap gearbox failure in Spain, now had a chance to emulate one of his father’s five Monaco Grand Prix wins.

1995 Monaco Grand Prix grid

Row 11. Damon Hill 1’21.952
2. Michael Schumacher 1’22.742
Row 23. David Coulthard 1’23.109
4. Gerhard Berger 1’23.220
Row 35. Jean Alesi 1’23.754
6. Mika Hakkinen 1’23.857
Row 47. Johnny Herbert 1’23.885
8. Martin Brundle 1’24.447
Row 59. Eddie Irvine 1’24.857
10. Mark Blundell 1’24.933
Row 611. Rubens Barrichello 1’25.081
12. Olivier Panis 1’25.125
Row 713. Gianni Morbidelli 1’25.447
14. Heinz-Harald Frentzen 1’25.661
Row 815. Ukyo Katayama 1’25.808
16. Luca Badoer 1’25.969
Row 917. Mika Salo 1’26.473
18. Pierluigi Martini 1’26.913
Row 1019. Jean-Christophe Boullion 1’27.145
20. Domenico Schiattarella 1’28.337
Row 1121. Bertrand Gachot 1’29.039
22. Pedro Diniz 1’29.244
Row 1223. Jos Verstappen 1’29.391
24. Roberto Moreno 1’29.608
Row 1325. Andrea Montermini 1’30.149
26. Taki Inoue 1’31.542

Simtek outpaced fellow newcomers Pacific in 1994 and had clearly made further gains in their second season. They now benefitted from the use of Benetton gearboxes and the arrival of that team’s test driver, Jos Verstappen, who took them to the heights of 14th on the grid in Argentina.

But there were worried faces at Monaco. The team’s debts were mounting up, and manager Nick Wirth admitted that if further funding did not materialise before the next round in Canada they would have to close. Monaco was the one venue where the possibility of a high rate of retirement could give them cause for optimism – but it would prove to be a crushing disappointment.

Coulthard tangles with the Ferraris

The drivers had been advised that in the event of a crash at the first corner the Safety Car, introduced to grand prix racing a few years earlier, would be deployed. However when that very scenario unfolded the decision was taken to red-flag and restart the race.

Starting his first Monaco Grand Prix from third on the grid, David Coulthard was too busy steering clear of Berger’s Ferrari on his left that he didn’t notice Alesi in the other red car appearing on his right. Contact was made, and Coulthard arrived at Sainte Devote facing in the wrong direction and tangled up with both the Ferraris.

The red flags duly appeared. This was a relief for Coulthard and the Ferrari drivers, who all had spare cars available to take the restart in, but a disappointment for Martin Brundle, whose Ligier had emerged from the melee in third place.

And for Simtek the red flag marked the end of their F1 adventure. Schiattarella’s damaged car was pushed away, and a damaged gearbox kept Verstappen from taking the restart. Never again would 26 cars take the start of an F1 race.

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Schumacher outmanouevres Hill

The second time around Coulthard made a much better start – so much so that instead of worrying about the Ferraris he had a speculative look down the inside of Schumacher as they braked for Sainte Devote. From then on, however, the Benetton ahead diminished in his vision as Hill and Schumacher quickly drew clear of the chasing pack.

Not everyone had got away so cleanly, however. The recent introduction of automatic jump start sensors – replacing the start line judges used before – caught out no fewer than six drivers: Gianni Morbidelli (who pitted soon after the start to have a tyre blanket cord removed from his wheel), Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Rubens Barrichello, Andrea Montermini and the Ligiers of Panis and Brundle.

These delayed drivers were among the clutch of backmarkers which Hill and Schumacher began to catch around lap 20, by which time a gearbox failure had sidelined Coulthard. Schumacher had put Hill under fierce pressure initially then dropped back, but as lapped traffic 20 years ago were not obliged to move aside as quickly as they are today, the delayed Hill was soon caught again by his rival.

In-race refuelling had been reintroduced to Formula One at the beginning of the previous season at Bernie Ecclestone’s urging, out of a desire to ‘improve the show’. It shaped the outcome of the race on a few occasions, and when it proved decisive it usually showed Benetton had sussed its nuances more quickly than Williams.

Monaco supplied evidence that in the second year of refuelling this was still the case. Williams took the opportunity to get Hill away from the slower cars, bringing him in for the first of what would be two pit stops. Theoretically a two-stop strategy could be faster than one.

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But Benetton understood that building up the necessary gap over a rival to justify an extra pit stop would always be difficult at Monaco, where overtaking is difficult. Unlike today, backmarkers 20 years ago did not have to pull over immediately once they had been shown three blue flags.

Sure enough, soon after his pit stop Hill was back in traffic again. So was Schumacher, albeit with the benefit of a lighter car, allowing him to take advantage of clear air ahead when he had it. Even so he raised his arm in frustration as he lapped Blundell, having spent almost two laps behind the McLaren.

Benetton outfoxed Williams in the pits – again
Schumacher eventually headed to the pits on lap 36, having gone 12 laps further than Hill, and he lost the lead not to the Williams driver, but Alesi. The Ferrari was also one-stopping, and though he spent just a single lap in the lead, after making his pit stop he also returned to the track in front of Hill.

It seemed as though Williams’ strategy had dropped Hill from first to third, but he was grappling with other problems as well. A faulty differential left him grappling with pronounced understeer, though the problem wasn’t diagnosed until his car was stripped down post-race.

Alesi was destined not to finish ahead of Hill, however. Four laps after his pit stop he was trying to lap Brundle when the Ligier hit the barrier at Tabac and Alesi was unable to avoid getting tangled up in the accident.

Berger, whose replacement Ferrari was not as powerful as his original car, therefore inherited third place. Johnny Herbert moved up to second in front of Blundell. And Minardi’s Luca Badoer gained two places, briefly putting him on course for his first points finish, until his pit stop dropped him behind Heinz-Harald Frentzen.

1995 Monaco Grand Prix result

Pos.#DriverTeamLapsTime / gap / reason
11Michael SchumacherBenetton-Renault781hr 53’11.258
25Damon HillWilliams-Renault7834.817
328Gerhard BergerFerrari781’11.447
42Johnny HerbertBenetton-Renault771 lap
57Mark BlundellMcLaren-Mercedes771 lap
630Heinz-Harald FrentzenSauber-Ford762 laps
723Pierluigi MartiniMinardi-Ford762 laps
829Jean-Christophe BoullionSauber-Ford744 laps
99Gianni MorbidelliFootwork-Hart744 laps
1021Pedro DinizForti-Ford726 laps
24Luca BadoerMinardi-Ford68Suspension
26Olivier PanisLigier-Mugen-Honda65Accident
4Mika SaloTyrrell-Yamaha63Gearbox
14Rubens BarrichelloJordan-Peugeot60Throttle
16Bertrand GachotPacific-Ford42Gearbox
27Jean AlesiFerrari41Accident
25Martin BrundleLigier-Mugen-Honda40Accident
10Taki InoueFootwork-Hart27Gearbox
3Ukyo KatayamaTyrrell-Yamaha26Accident
17Andrea MonterminiPacific-Ford23Disqualified
15Eddie IrvineJordan-Peugeot22Accident
6David CoulthardWilliams-Renault16Gearbox
22Roberto MorenoForti-Ford9Brakes
8Mika HakkinenMcLaren-Mercedes8Engine
11Domenico SchiattarellaSimtek-FordDid not start
12Jos VerstappenSimtek-FordDid not start

Schumacher seizes the initiative

With his second consecutive Monaco Grand Prix victory, Schumacher had regained the initiative in the drivers’ championship contest. Hill would only take one more win that year – in Hungary – before Schumacher clinched the title.

Benetton also scored a coup by giving their new engine supplier Renault their first ever victory in their principality. None had come during their time as a works constructor, nor when supplying Lotus with engines or even when Renault’s V10 powered the all-conquering Williams cars of 1992 and 1993.

Williams had nowhere to hide after losing the most prestigious race on the calendar through a clear strategic error. Williams technical director Patrick Head later admitted Benetton had exposed them as being “operationally poor” in 1995.

Others in the team laid the blame for the poor season elsewhere. Design mastermind Adrian Newey reckoned Hill “wasn’t the driver in 1995 that he had been in the previous year” and that Mansell “would have won the championship” in the FW17. Later that same day, Jacques Villeneuve won the Indianapolis 500, and within a few months Williams had hired him to take Coulthard’s place for 1996. Before the year was out, Hill’s seat had also been earmarked for another driver – Heinz-Harald Frentzen – from 1997.

Grids get smaller

At the other end of the grid, the loss of Simtek brought an end to years of full fields for F1 races. Just six years earlier races were regularly attended by 50% more cars than there were spaces for them on the grid – nearly twice as many as there are today.

Those running the sport, however, felt that further obstacles needed to be put in the way of F1’s smallest teams. From 1996 a new rule prevented any driver who did not lap within 107% of the pole position time from starting.

That year just 22 cars started the first race of the year, and the grid has rarely risen above that level since. Today the figure is just 20, and it is only that high thanks to the 11th-hour rescue of the Manor team.

Later, new teams were required to lodge a multi-million pound bond with the FIA. Today no one can enter the sport without submitting a tender to the sport’s governing body. Given the huge cost of competition and revenue system skewed in favour of a small number of preferred teams, there are unsurprisingly few takers.

Twenty years on, full F1 grids are a thing of the past, and that is undoubtedly by design.

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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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42 comments on “F1’s last race with a full grid”

  1. Later, new teams were required to lodge a multi-million pound bond with the FIA. Today no one can enter the sport without submitting a tender to the sport’s governing body.

    That was done to prevent anyone turning up, Been miles off the pace & then disappearing as Lola did at the start of 1997.

    Bernie wanted serious teams who were willing to commit to F1 for the long term & not just turn up when it suited them & thats why he pushed through things like that to give them an incentive to stick around beyond 1 season. Same reason the prize money is usually handed out at the end of the following year.

    107% rule was to try & ensure that teams had some level of competitiveness & were not simply miles off the pace with no reason to try & improve (Pacific Gp in 1994 for instance who were nowhere all year & showed no signs of improving).

    1. @gt-racer

      with no reason to try & improve

      In other sports that’s what prize money is for. Today’s smallest teams hardly have an incentive to improve when the likes of Ferrari or Red Bull are going to be given ten times as much money regardless of how they perform.

      Not that it will matter in a few years’ time when they’ve been killed off and replaced with manufacturer B- C- and D-teams…

      1. @keithcollantine I agree.

        I’d like to see this premium payout to the ‘franchise’ teams scrapped with the millions saved from that distributed amongst the teams that actually need it.

        That however is unlikely to happen now because it seems Bernie has decided what HE wants F1 to be & that vision seems to be a few manufacturer constructor teams with the bottom half of the grid filled with customer cars all running a spec chassis/engine package (Based on his comments last week).

        That is in my view the wrong direction & distribution/cost cutting would be the correct way to go but as is becoming more & more obvious with each new strategy group meeting those at the top have little interest in that direction because it doesn’t benefit them.

        Jean Todt’s approach to governance has been a failure (Surprisingly given his excellent record of managing things over the years), F1 needs somebody at the top with a spine to stand up & TELL everyone else how things are going to be. What we have is somebody who seems happy enough letting everyone argue amongst themselfs while solving nothing. If the FIA president can only dedicate 10% of his time on F1 (As he is said to have commented recently) then he needs to put in place some sort of F1 commissioner in his place who can dedicate 100% of his time on F1 & who has the power to govern & get past the politicking from Bernie & the top teams.

        Ross Brawn would be at the top of my list for that role, Just not sure he would be willing to take it.

        1. Top teams like Ferrari have been there from the start and bring in more fans, why should little teams get more than them, that’s a bit communist. I never like the little teams whats the point so many great drivers coming through better to have them in better cars and if that means customer cars so be it. LMP1 has 6 teams, 4 of them manufacturers most running 3 car teams and the racing is great.

          1. mark p, what he is suggesting is that the income distribution should be more equitably split (for example, eliminating the automatic 5% of the profits that Ferrari gets before the rest of the money is shared out).

            It’s also a rather narrow viewpoint to focus on just the drivers – there are a whole host of engineers and designers that would not have entered into F1 without those smaller teams, and without them the talent pool would be drastically smaller.

            As for the comparison with sportscar racing, firstly Nissan has not actually entered a race yet (the first race they can enter, if they receive approval from the ACO, would be Le Mans), so there have only been three manufacturers so far this season.

            It’s also not certain how many cars they will field in the races after Le Mans – Bowlby has hinted that Nissan may run a fairly paired down program for the remainder of the season, since their focus is pretty much exclusively on the 24 Hours of Le Mans only.

            Furthermore, thanks to the fact that Rebellion are having to change their engine – their contract with Toyota expired this year, and they aren’t renewing it as that engine will be ineligible for 2017 – Rebellion Racing haven’t taken part in any races so far this season either.

            As for running three car teams, for a start Toyota has never run three cars ever since they joined back in 2012, and have no intention of doing so. Where teams have run a third car, that really only occurs at Le Mans – the ACO only allows third cars to score points at Le Mans, so normally the manufacturers only run two cars.

            At the opening race in Silverstone, the LMP1 field consisted of just seven entrants, and the next race in Spa only saw nine LMP1 entrants – far fewer than you seem to think there were.

            Even at Le Mans, where the LMP1 field should be at its largest, only 14 LMP1 cars have submitted entries – that is not exactly huge, and is working on the assumption that all of the participants can actually compete.

          2. Cannot get a reply button on the post by anon.

            I agree, however their were 4 LMP1 teams at Silverstone I think ByKolles was the 4th. When saying 6 teams I meant for LeMans entrants which we add Nissan and Rebellion.

            F1 is important for upcoming engineers progressing up the grid however engineering talent comes through in spec series like GP2 where despite same cars different teams can extract differences in performance. F1 is the only open wheel series where all design their own cars but motorsport in open wheelers has talented engineers across all series.

            Could you have spec chassis but where engine builders like Judd enter just a vice versa scenario to McLaren and others?

            Customer chassis but teams can choose to alter suspension wings etc. Customer chassis as a base point for smaller independent teams?

            Frank Williams 1st attempt in the 70’s was a bought in chassis matched to a customer engine?

            My main point was LMP1 is great and will have 6 teams at LeMans 3 of which run 3 cars. Why is it an issue if F1 do it. Things I have mentioned have occured before, indeed in eras when many said motorsport was at it’s best.

          3. The fact that the LMP1 grid is so small is exactly why F1 shouldn’t go down this route. F1’s grid size is already subject to the whims of manufacturer interest as seen by the rise in manufacturer entrants in the late 90’s and their sudden departure in the mid-late 00’s (Ford, Renault, Honda, BMW…). We now only have 2 manufacturer teams in the sport, one Ferrari who will never leave (despite LdM’s veiled threats of the past), and the other Mercedes who have already insinuated that they could leave if things don’t go their way. The current ‘prize’ money structure was clearly introduced to KEEP the current competitors that provide added value and history in the sport.

            F1 is a constructors championship and it should always remain that way. Sure, reduce costs by making a number of parts ‘off the shelf’ options, in fact you could pretty much make everything buy-inable except the tub, aero surfaces and floor. Cheap competitive engines is the main thing required at present.

  2. very enjoyable read – the first season i followed (through buying F1 News magazine – i think it puttered along for a few more years after that but it’s dead now).

    i think it was a classic season, but maybe that’s just nostalgia. there’s a twitter account dedicated to it https://twitter.com/F1__1995

    1. Brilliant season, although it was a bit of a one horse race. Spa, Monza and Montreal GPs were so much fun to watch as a kid.
      My favourite though was the Australian GP, as a Hill fan, where he finished two laps ahead of Panis’s Ligier whose engine was smoking as he just made it to the chequered flag, with a Footwork Hart on the podium and a Minardi in the points!

      Bizarre, bonkers GPs like that just don’t happen anymore :(

      Also that Twitter account is brilliant, thanks for introducing it to me!

  3. Reading the grid list was like meeting old friends – but I’d completely forgotten about Taki Inoue. Thanks @keithcollantine. A blast from the past.

    1. poor old Taki, imagine if that happened in 2015. but there was not much social media in 95

      1. Taki was also hit by a security car when trying to put out the fire on his Footwork.. poor guy.

    2. Ahh….Taki Inoue, I could never forget him after playing F1 1995 on the PS1 so much all those years ago! Every time I see his name I can hear Murray Walkers voice from the game.

  4. Pole lap nearly 7 seconds off this year but with v10 engines, bigger diffuses etc.

    Makes you think they should leave current cars to natural development to control costs as they will get quicker but tyres and fuel flow restrictions mean they are so far off quali times in the races. More durable tyres, no fuel flow restrictions? Less overtaking but overtaking is harder the faster the cars travel.

    1. That’s really interesting that they were so much slower. I remember Berger’s power slides in practice that year in the V12, and it was massively more impressive and fun to watch than what we have now.

      Here it is, wonderful!


      So that sort of implies that the actual lap time is not too important to the spectacle, perhaps?

      1. @paulguitar Is that Ben Edwards commentating? Didn’t realise he’d been around so long!

        I would suggest the lack of powersliding and such is as much due to the over-reliance on aero as the buttery tyres. As you heard Watson comment, cars haven’t been moving around like that since the 70s. To my understanding, good aero requires a very stiff chassis and suspension to keep the airflow consistent, which makes the cars very skittish and snappy (not to mention you lose most of that aero as the car yaws). Also obviously the more downforce you have, the harder it is to break traction at those kinds of speeds.

        1. @george

          Yep, that is Ben Edwards. Early days there, I remember back then one could only watch the free practice sessions on Eurosport. I used to ride my bike to the local pub, get myself a coke and watch it there…….:)

          I see what you are saying about the cars. What strikes me seeing that footage again is just how viscerally exciting they were. To have seen and heard that live would have been unforgettable.

      2. Those cars weren’t fast compared to today, but they were fast compared to the motorsport series then.

        1. that is the crucial point. F1 should be the pinnacle and a significant step up from the next best single-seaters.

    2. You can’t forget that back then the circuit was slower maybe that accounts for 4 or 5 seconds. St devote was slower the chicane was slower tabac, swimming pool and the cars were wider which was maybe was not beneficial at Monaco. On the other side the tyres were slick but the technology has improved a lot from those days not to mention aero, and also the engines could only produce 700 bhp. As people have been pointing out the cars were spectacular, especially the 2 Ferrari’s drifting out of casino.

      1. @peartree

        That’s a good point, I had forgotten about the differences in the circuit.

        I can’t imagine how GLORIOUS that Ferrari must have sounded with the V12 bouncing off the buildings, sheer joy!

        1. Ben Edwards and John Watson were my favourite commentators, used to watch Eurosport instead of Walker on the BBC.

          As for racing just use the 95 aero rules without refuelling and see how quick the cars would be with modern technology applied.

          1. mark p

            I think they should just put the whole field in 1995 Ferrari 412 T2 V12’s. They could keep their own liveries…….:)

            I don’t think that will get universal support here though………

          2. @paulguitar Not sure how many cars would finish a race though.

  5. Taki Inoue should deserved a spot in F1 Hall of Fame. Nobody knows how he can have his stars so (mis)aligned that he involved in almost all F1 weird accidents in his career due not to his fault, except for crashing few moments earlier that absolutely shouldn’t lead to all those weird accidents. Unless Bernie already designated him as the Fool of F1 circus, but that can’t be right. Right?

    1. He certainly had a place of honour on F1 Rejects before the site sadly disappeared back in October.

  6. I don’t get the definition of a “full” grid. Is it because 26 cars is the maximum permitted by the rules? And how long has it been so?
    Nonetheless, what has 26 of special to be that number, why don’t we have 24 or 28 as the “full” limit?

    1. Simon (@weeniebeenie)
      28th May 2015, 17:27

      @fixy I was going to say didn’t we technically have a full grid a few years ago when the rules said the limit was 20?

      1. Don’t think the limit has ever been 20. For a good few years in the 2000s it was 24 (though the grid never actually reached its maximum size), before being upped to 26 again in time for the 2010 season. Though with the collapse of the USF1 team before the start of the season, the grid was never actually maxed out.

    2. I think 26 was the maximum permitted by the rules because it was considered the maximum number of cars on track at the same time that could be safely handled on an average F1 circuit.

  7. Wow… 20 years ago was 1995? Feeling very, very old right now.

  8. Question : why did Tyrrell Yamaha have numbers 3 and 4. The winning constructor in 1994 was Williams, right? So, shouldn’t Williams be 3 and 4?

    1. From the 1970s until 1995 teams tended to retain the same numbers from season to season, with the world champion driver entitled to drive the #1 car. That’s why certain driver/number associations (such as Gilles Villeneuve’s 27 and Nigel Mansell’s “Red 5” at Williams) stuck, because they were the same for several years.

      It was only from 1996 that the teams started to be numbered in order of the previous year’s constructors’ championship (with the drivers’ champion retaining the #1 car even if he switched teams, like Schumacher in 1996 and Hill in 1997).

    2. It was only from 1996 onwards that the teams were allocated numbers based on their finishing position in the WCC in the previous year.

      From 1974 to 1995, teams were allocated fixed numbers instead, which were broadly based on where they had finished in the WCC in 1973 – as Tyrrell had finished second in 1973, they were allocated numbers 3 and 4. McLaren were originally allocated 5 and 6, Brabham had 7 and 8, March had 9 and 10, Ferrari 11 and 12 and so forth.

      Numbers were sometimes reallocated over the years, but some, such as Tyrrell, kept the same numbers from then on, hence why Tyrrell had No 3 and 4 in 1995 and Williams were allocated No 5 and 6.

  9. A season with no more than 5 good drivers and row 10 are 6 sec off the pace. Teams with no place in F1.

    1. @rampante Wrong on all counts you are. There were always teams 6 sec off the pace. Frank Williams’ team was one of those once you know. It’s the so-called Strategy group’s, CVC’s and Bernie Moronstone’s terror reign on F1 we’ve got now, that prevents a fair competition and any opportunity for an independent team to grow into something bigger, that has no place in F1

      As for drivers let’s see: Schumacher, Hill, Alesi, Berger, Hakkinen, Coulthard, Barrichello, Irvine, Frentzen, Salo, Herbert, Panis(before the 1997 injury), Verstappen, Brundle would have no trouble to compete with the grid we have now. I count 14

      1. and Williams became one of the best teams in the sport. They moved on the others didn’t. Do you really want to remember Lola, Life, Fondmetal, Lamborghini, MasterCard Lola, Pacific, Onyx, Eurobrun need I go on and that’s just since the 80’s.
        Of the drivers you mentioned Salo and Brundle 0 wins, Panis and Alesi 1 win, Frenzen and Herbert 3 wins, Irvine 4 and look at the cars they had during their time in F1.

        1. @rampante Some make it to the top from the back. Most don’t. But if you approach with derision the teams at the back then none would have the chance to go forward

          Btw, Onyx were podium finishers with Stefan Johansson and have scored other points finishes. Lamborghini FYI never had a team of their own, they were supplying engines to teams like Lotus. unfortunately their V12 suffered from a lack of development

          The list of teams you gave proves that it’s hard to make it to the front. but first you have to have a chance

          Re:drivers. Let’s indeed look at the cars they had. Salo had a car capable of winning at all for 5 races in his career, midseason at that, after Schumi’s accident. He was about to win one of those only to be forced to give away the win to Irvine.
          Brundle had a race winning car for 0 races in his career. Yes in 1992 his team-mate Schumi won 1 race which was a fluke as normally he wouldn’t stand a chance against Mansell with the Williams.
          Panis won 1 race in a Ligier with a career that’s effectively ended with the 1997 crash in Montreal. Prior to that he was considered one of the fastest young drivers and a potential future WDC, but never fully regained his speed after that. By the way he was 3rd in the 1997 WDC standings at that point, again in a midfield Ligier.
          Alesi’s cars? He led 20 races only to have his Ferraris break down on him. Not that he had any business leading them at all since Ferrari was rubbish. How many wins did Alesi’s team-mates Prost and Berger won during their time together in supposedly good cars that you imply he had had? Just two, to Alesi’s one, both by Berger at Hockenheim. During their time as team-mates for 5 years in Ferrari and Bennetton Alesi outscored, outqualified and led twice more races than Berger
          Frentzen who was at one stage considered a bigger talent than Schumacher, underperformed at Williams, yet over-performed fighting for WDC in 1999 with a Jordan. Nowhere else he had a good car at all.
          Herbert’s and Irvine’s only fault was that they had winning cars as team-mates to Schumacher yet were not as good as him(who was?). Still Herbert won 2 races in 1995 and even a race with Stewart in 1999. Irvine stepped up when Schumi was injured in 1999, won races and fought for WDC. The fact he managed to do so, only tells one thing: Ferrari were not the dominant team of the 2000’s then. They were climbing from they early 90’s slump and were putting all of their fight to just one car. Irvine was there just to make up the numbers and test unproven parts in race conditions. Otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to step up the way he did

          Your point again?

          1. +1 Well said.

  10. Look at quali times 9.6 seconds from 1st to last in a dry qualifying. Rose tinted glasses by many as a lot of races were like this. I loved this era but I like current. Whats the point of more teams if the bottom 8 cars are further from pole than Manor now are?

    As for the speed Manor would be on pole here if they could go back in time.

  11. Excellent article. It’s clear for us to see that they 107% rule should be scrapped and the ‘tender’ should also be abolished. I miss full grids. F1 only gets worse and worse of late.

  12. In any racing series, smaller, under-dog teams add drama and interest, which is diminished when the gap between large and small is artificially widened and the smaller teams drop-out. Grids then shrink, which means that the loss of one of the larger remaining teams from the smaller grid leaves a much larger hole in the series. Essentially, the anti-small team rules have created a mathematical dead-end.

    Whenever I hear of a driver or team complaining about “those damn back-markers”, I wish they would realize that those back-markers help bring in more drama, more interest, more fans and ultimately, more money. Very few “big” teams came into the sport already big. Most of them, including Ferrari, began small and grew. And yes, Minardi is another good example.

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