• Spanish Grand Prix

Seven hospitalised after huge blaze in Williams garage

ESPN Staff
May 13, 2012 « Maldonado celebrates 'a wonderful day' | Raikkonen: 'The car feels strong' »
Mechanics tackle the blaze in the Williams garage © Getty Images

Seven people were left needing hospital treatment after a massive fire engulfed the Williams garage as the team celebrated its first grand prix victory in eight years. The pit lane was evacuated as the blaze, which started less than an hour after Pastor Maldonado's victory, took hold and was fought by personnel from the Williams and neighbouring Caterham and Force India teams.

A Williams spokesman later confirmed four personnel were injured and taken to the medical centre at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya, with one flown on to a local hospital with severe burns to his legs. Caterham said four of its team were being treated, one with a minor hand injury and three with respiratory issues, with one from Force India receiving treatment for smoke inhalation.

Sir Frank Williams was giving a congratulatory speech to a packed garage when the fire broke out. "I felt an explosion from behind, somewhere from the fuel area, and everyone ran out quickly," explained the team's reserve driver Valtteri Bottas.

As the blaze rapidly took hold, gutting the garage which included Bruno Senna's car but not race winner Maldonado's, clouds of acrid black smoke billowed into the air. The area was swiftly evacuated with Maldonado carrying his 12-year-old cousin Manual to safely and the wheelchair-bound Williams also been hurried clear. It took 20 minutes to contain the fire.

"The flames were quickly brought under control through the combined intervention of staff from Williams, Caterham and Force India, supported by the circuit fire services," the FIA said late on Sunday night. "The FIA is collaborating closely with the Spanish authorities investigating this incident."

Speculated was rife as to what started the fire but a Williams spokesman said all the team knew was that it "originated from the fuel area".

Force India's chief operations officer Otmar Szafnauer said he thought the teams reacted well to the situation. "We were a few garages away having our debrief when we saw all the smoke and ran over. We all ran over to help and ran down with our fire extinguishers to help put it out. It's good that we do have fire extinguishers almost everywhere in the garage but that is a bit fortunate that almost all the teams went down to help put it out."