The 1996 FIA Formula One World Championship was the 50th season of FIAFormula One motor racing. The championship commenced on 10 March 1996 and ended on 13 October after sixteen races. Two World Championship titles were awarded, one for Drivers and one for Constructors.
Damon Hill won the Drivers' Championship two years after being beaten by a point by Michael Schumacher, making him the first son of a World Champion (his father Graham having won the title in 1962 and 1968) to have won the title himself. Hill, who had finished runner-up for the past two seasons, was seriously threatened only by his teammate, newcomer Jacques Villeneuve, the 1995 IndyCar and Indianapolis 500 champion. Williams-Renault easily won the Constructors' title, as there was no other competitor strong enough to post a consistent challenge throughout the championship. This was also the beginning of the end of Williams's 1990s dominance, as it was announced that Hill and designer Adrian Newey would depart at the conclusion of the season, with engine manufacturer Renault also leaving after 1997.
Two-time defending world champion Michael Schumacher had moved to Ferrari and despite numerous reliability problems, they had gradually developed into a front-running team by the end of the season. Defending Constructors' Champion Benetton began their decline towards the middle of the grid, having lost key personnel due to Schumacher's departure, and failed to win a race. Olivier Panis took the only victory of his career at the Monaco Grand Prix.
The numbering system used since 1974 was dropped. Ferrari was given the numbers 1 and 2 after hiring the defending champion Michael Schumacher, despite finishing the previous year's Constructors' Championship in third. Benetton received numbers 3 and 4 for winning the Constructors' Championship. Williams got numbers 5 and 6 for finishing second, McLaren got 7 and 8 for finishing fourth, Ligier and 9 and 10 for finishing fifth, and so on.
The following teams and drivers competed in the 1996 FIA Formula One World Championship.
Meanwhile, Tyrrell lost their title sponsor, Finnish communications company Nokia, becoming officially known simply as Tyrrell Yamaha.
Forti also lost the sponsorship of Italian dairy corporation Parmalat, as well as any official connection to Ford, although they continued to use Ford engines.
Scuderia Italia decided to end their two-year working relationship with Minardi, so the team once again became known simply as Minardi Team.
Three teams disappeared from the entry list entirely. Larrousse had missed the early races of 1995 before finally announcing their withdrawal before the San Marino Grand Prix. Gérard Larrousse claimed several times the team would reappear in 1996, but a combination of legal and financial difficulties meant this never materialised. Meanwhile, Simtek competed in the first five races of 1995, but missed the Canadian Grand Prix and went into liquidation shortly afterwards. Pacific withdrew from the sport at the end of 1995.
Other than Montermini, Pacific had used three drivers in 1995. Bertrand Gachot formed his own sports car team, while Giovanni Lavaggi returned to F1 midway through 1996 with Minardi, and Jean-Denis Délétraz also moved into sports car ownership with the FIRST Racing outfit.