MANSELL SAYS F1 NEEDS TO GROW GRID
Legend says modern sport gives little chances for new drivers to shine
British legend Nigel Mansell has urged Formula 1 bosses to focus their efforts on growing the grid to better enable up and coming drivers to get a chance on the sport’s biggest stage. Speaking to MN’S sister title,
Autosport, 1992 world champion Mansell said that the drop in entries has the added effect of limiting chances for aspiring and talented drivers, who now face an uphill struggle to break into F1.
F1 last hit its grid maximum of 26 cars at the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix – the last race for the Simtek team before it went out of business. The 1994 season was the last time any team – invariably Pacific – failed to qualify for a grand prix due to the field being full.
The grid did rise back to 24 cars for the 2010 season when HRT, Lotus Racing and Virgin Racing all joined the grid. But all three outfits have since ceased operation in F1, with the Haas team being the only entry since.
Mansell said: “No disrespect to F1, but the depth of competition is not there like it was in the 1980s and ’90s. We want to see 26 cars on the grid. There is an awful lot of worthy drivers who are backlogged and have nowhere to go.”
Mansell also added that the advancement of safety in the sport also had a knock-on effect of making it harder to secure an F1 seat.
“Through the years, there were drivers being injured out of the sport and being replaced,” he added. “There was always a new influx of blood every year, always cars to get into. That has now dried up.
“The FIA have done an incredible job with safety, the manufacturers have worked closely to make the cars safer. A driver now has almost twice the career span, which is good for them, but the drivers waiting to break in will never get the opportunity.”
Mclaren head Zak Brown said that F1’s current testing rules were also a big barrier to bringing new drivers into F1.
Brown said: “The biggest challenge you have is a lack of testing. You only get eight pre-season test days, and even that is with just one car so you have to rotate drivers. To take a day away from Fernando [Alonso’s] four or Stoffel [Vandoorne’s] four makes no sense.
“So, until that rule changes, it will be difficult for a driver outside of the F1 arena, or F2, to break into F1, because they have such a disadvantage.
“The system doesn’t really allow you [as a team] to bring anyone in. I think it’s great that Toro Rosso took a gamble with someone like Brendon Hartley – but he knows all the tracks.”