The Benetton B196 is a Formula One racing car with which the Benetton team competed in the 1996 Formula One World Championship. It was driven by the experienced pairing of Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger, who both moved from Ferrari to replace departing 1994 and 1995 champion Michael Schumacher and his number two, Johnny Herbert. It was Berger’s second stint with Benetton having last driven for them back in 1986.
Many thought, Benetton and Alesi included, that this could well be the Frenchman’s year to seriously challenge for the title – something many had been predicting he would do since he signed for Ferrari in 1991. However, after achieving the double of Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships in 1995, the 1996 season saw the team slip slightly from its position of eminence. A direct development of the B195, the new drivers found the B196 difficult to drive, as it had been designed with Schumacher’s driving style in mind, but managed to score a series of points and podium finishes. The biggest disappointment was not winning a race for the first time since 1988, although Alesi led in Monaco until he suffered a suspension failure, and Berger led in Germany until his engine failed with three laps remaining.
The team lost second place in the Constructors’ Championship to Ferrari at the final race of the season in Japan, at which Alesi crashed out early and Berger also made mistakes.
The B196 was the first Benetton car to race under Italian nationality. It was also test-driven by former Benetton race driver Alessandro Nannini, six years after the helicopter crash which ended his F1 career, and by Vincenzo Sospiri.
Chassis: Carbon fibre monocoque
Suspension (front): Double wishbone, pushrod
Suspension (rear): Double wishbone, pushrod
Engine: Renault RS8/RS8B, 3,000 cc (183.1 cu in), 72° V10, NA, mid-engine, longitudinally-mounted
Transmission: Benetton transverse 7-speed, with the possibility of running a 6-speed sequential semi-automatic
Power 700 hp (522 kW; 710 PS) @ 16,000 rpm