1993: the history of the 3rd carWritten by Ζήσης Βουργάνας
Translated by Nikos Arvanitis
The last time a Formula 1 team insisted for the addition of a 3rd car in the championship was in 1993 and this team was McLaren.
How did the British team end up asking for permission of a third drive?
Let’s start unrolling the skein.
At the end of the 1992 season, Honda bid farewell to McLaren and Formula 1, with Ron Dennis searching desperately for engines.
Despite the fact he had almost 6 months to find the best alternative, the only thing the Briton managed was to get customer V8 Ford engines.
That made Senna’s desire to go to Williams bigger, leaving a vacant seat in the team, as they had already signed the American CART champion Michael Andretti.
The Brazilian was not able to move to Williams though, as Prost had vetoed his arrival and as a result he tested at CART at early 1993 with Team Penske.
Ron Dennis, seeing that he would not easily persuade Senna to sign, managed to “steal” Mika Hakkinen from Williams and Lotus that wanted him (full story here).
Despite that, he was still trying to convince Senna to test the team’s new car, something that became reality during winter testing at Silverstone.
Finally, the Brazilian signed only for the first race, leaving Hakkinen outside the grid.
Dennis though would prefer Andretti being outside and not Hakkinen but that was not possible and therefore he handed in the request of the 3rd car to FIA so that the Finn would race too.
He supported the request in the fact that in 1993 there were 13 teams and 26 cars, contrary to the previous years where 30-32 cars took part.
The FIA rejected this request initially and set into effect an unprecedented regulation.
Out of the 26 cars that competed, the 25 would qualify for the race.
Only one driver would watch the race from the pits.
Senna kept on signing one-race contracts until the 6th race of the year in Monaco, signing a contract for the rest of the season afterwards.
Ron Dennis then started pressing the FIA for the entry of a 3rd car, given the condition that there were a lot of slow cars and the interest would get a significant boost if more fast cars were added.
This time, FIA’s reaction was that the only case this would happen, would be only if a team quits the championship.
Me and my big mouth
“Don’t bite off more than you can chew” people say and in this case it fits like a glove.
Scuderia Italia announced that after the Italian GP would retire from championship, merging with Minardi ahead of next season, leaving two vacant seats.
Then not only Ron Dennis and McLaren, but also Benetton, Ligier and Footwork ran to FIA and handed in a request of a 3rd car for the remaining three races.
On the other hand, FIA once again took back what had said, responding that this would not happen.
Dennis, watching his last chance to see Hakkinen running with the 3rd car disappearing, removed Michael Andretti immediately and put the Finn in his place.
So the story of the 3rd car ended forever.