McLaren and Williams continued to rule the race in the 1990s. In total, McLaren got 16 titles, including seven constructors’, nine drivers’ in that period, while Williams matched McLaren with 16 titles of their own, including nine constructors’, seven drivers’. But the competition between Prost and Senna ended in 1993 with Prost’s retirement and then in 1994 Senna passed away at Imola. His death was a watershed, in that it led to considerable development in safety standards – no drivers have died at the wheel of an F1 car ever since. The FIA introduced measures to slow the vehicles and increase their safety.
But critics continued to argue the race was more about the technicians and designers than drivers, and like any other sports, a few teams dominated. McLaren, Williams, Renault (formerly called Benetton) and Ferrari won every title in World Championship from 1984 until 2008. The soaring costs of Formula One widened the distance between the big four and the smaller independents. Between 1990 and 2008, there were 28 teams came and went, few making no more than an ephemeral mark.
Among the dominant teams during the 90s, Michael Schumacher and Ferrari won an unprecedented six consecutive constructors’ championship titles and five consecutive drivers’ championship titles. Schumacher was a talented driver but his habit of pushing all rules and sportsmanship to the limit made him a difficult man to acquaintance to, and that allied to his success further caused problems for the sport’s popularity. Viewing figures dropped and concerns developed for the sport’s future given the growing difficulty for any new entrants to make an impression
Championship rules were frequently changed by the FIA with the aim of improving the on-track action and cutting expenses. In 2002, legal towards team orders established in 1950, were banned after several incidents. There were teams manipulated race outcomes, generating negative publicity, most famously the one by Ferrari at the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix. There was tinkering over pit stops, points scoring, engines and tyres.