1993 saw a major shake-up of drivers, especially among the top teams. Across the grid a number of experienced drivers retired or moved to other series and new faces emerged.
- Williams completed the signing of Alain Prost who was returning to the sport after a "sabbatical" year. Team owner Frank Williams would not guarantee Nigel Mansell the number 1 driver status in the team next to the triple World Champion Prost, despite Mansell being the reigning World Champion, so Mansell opted not to remain with the team to defend his title and moved to IndyCar racing in the US. Prost's team-mate would be Damon Hill, son of Graham Hill and Williams's test driver in 1992 (Hill also raced for the Brabham team in 1992). The absence of the defending champion meant that Williams could not use the number 1 on their cars, so the number 0 was used instead, by Hill, while Prost used the number 2.
- Uncertainty surrounded the McLaren team, whose iconic driver Ayrton Senna was reluctant to re-sign for 1993 as Honda had withdrawn from the sport and the team were not expected to be competitive with customer Ford engines. McLaren signed Michael Andretti, a successful IndyCar driver and son of 1978 World Champion Mario Andretti, and Mika Häkkinen, who had impressed for Lotus in 1991 and 1992. Senna eventually signed on a race-by-race basis and was partnered by Andretti until the Italian Grand Prix. Häkkinen became the teams test driver and stepped up to take Andretti's place after the American left the team.
- Benetton retained Michael Schumacher, but lost Martin Brundle who was replaced after numerous run-ins and disagreements with team manager Flavio Briatore. Taking the second seat at Benetton was the most experienced driver in Formula One, Italian veteran Riccardo Patrese, who was released by Williams after just over five seasons with the team, despite having finished runner up to Mansell in the Drivers' Championship in 1992.
- Ferrari retained Jean Alesi, but Ivan Capelli and Nicola Larini had both disappointed in 1992 and so Gerhard Berger returned to the team after three years at McLaren.
- Lotus retained Johnny Herbert and took on Alessandro Zanardi, who replaced Häkkinen. When Zanardi had a huge crash in the Belgian Grand Prix, he was replaced by Portuguese newcomer Pedro Lamy.
- Tyrrell retained Andrea de Cesaris and took on Japan's Ukyo Katayama, who moved from Larrousse.
- Ligier reunited British drivers Martin Brundle and Mark Blundell: the two had previously driven for Brabham in 1991, but to the relief of commentators everywhere had seldom troubled the TV coverage. This was the first, and only, time in Ligier's history that they did not have a French driver in their line-up (although they had Eric Bernard as a test driver).
- Footwork Arrows lost Michele Alboreto and replaced him with British veteran Derek Warwick, returning to the sport after two years away driving sports cars. Japanese driver Aguri Suzuki was retained as number two driver.
- The BMS Scuderia Italia team switched from Dallara to Lola chassis and took on five time Grand Prix winner Michele Alboreto (who's last win was eight years earlier in 1985) and newcomer, Italian Luca Badoer.
- Jordan had lost both Stefano Modena and Mauricio Gugelmin who quit Formula One after a frustrating 1992. Young Brazilian Rubens Barrichello made his debut with the team, while five drivers filled the second seat: Ivan Capelli, Thierry Boutsen, Marco Apicella, test driver Emanuele Naspetti and finally Eddie Irvine. The team also switched from using the Yamaha V12 to the new Hart V10. Hart was making their F1 return with Jordan after last being in grand prix racing in 1986 with their 4 cyl 1.5L tubocharged 415T.
- Larrousse lost both Ukyo Katayama and Bertrand Gachot. Therefore, they signed Philippe Alliot (returning to the team after driving for Larrousse from 1987-1989) and Erik Comas, who moved from Ligier.
- Minardi retained Christian Fittipaldi and took on Fabrizio Barbazza, who was later replaced by Pierluigi Martini, returning for his third sting with the team after spending 1992 with BMS Scuderia Italia.
- The Swiss Sauber team were the only new team this year, with Ilmor engines and much-publicised backing by Mercedes-Benz, who were appearing in F1 for the first time since the Le Mans disaster of 1955. Their drivers were Finland's JJ Lehto, who signed from BMS Scuderia Italia, and Austria's Karl Wendlinger, who had impressed with March in 1992.
In all, only seven drivers who lined up on the grid in South Africa were with the same team they had been with the previous year: Senna, Schumacher, Alesi, Herbert,de Cesaris, Suzuki and Fittipaldi.
The worldwide recession of the early 1990s had taken its toll: the March and Fondmetal teams had folded in the off-season, while Brabham and Andrea Moda Formula had failed to complete the 1992 season. Thus, there were only 13 teams on the grid at the opening race of 1993, in South Africa. In addition, numerous car number changes had taken place:
- Williams used the numbers 0 and 2, as described above.
- Benetton took the numbers 5 and 6, which Williams had used since 1984.
- McLaren took the numbers 7 and 8, vacated by Brabham.
- Jordan took the numbers 14 and 15, vacated by Fondmetal.
- Larrousse took the numbers 19 and 20, which Benetton and its predecessor Toleman had used since 1984.
- New team Sauber took the numbers 29 and 30, which Larrousse had used since 1987. These were now the highest numbers.
- The numbers 16 and 17, vacated by March, remained vacant until 1995.
Read more about this topic: 1993 Formula One Season
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