Triumph and tragedy for the victor of the Spanish Grand Prix
By Berthold Bouman
Triumph and tragedy on the same day for the Williams team, one and a half hour after they celebrated Williams’ first win in eight years as Pastor Maldonado won the Spanish Grand Prix, their garage caught fire. Seven Formula One personnel were taken to hospital, a total of 31 personnel were injured by the blaze but most of them could be treated by the doctors present at the medical center of the Circuit de Catalunya.
A FIA statement read, “Thirty-one team members were seen by circuit medical center staff and all have been released, with the exception of seven who were transferred to a variety of local hospitals where they are receiving treatment.”
Before the emergency services arrived, the fire was fought by personnel from Williams, Caterham, HRT and Force India, the latter three were quickly at the spot to assist their colleagues. Four Williams team members were injured and were brought to the medical center on the circuit, three were transferred to a Spanish hospital while the fourth was released after treatment.
Caterham, who’s garage was next to the Williams garage, reported that four of their personnel had been injured and were taken to the medical center, one suffered a minor hand injury and three suffered from respiratory problems. Force India also reported one of their team members had been treated for smoke inhalation. Given the number of people present in the Williams garage at the time, it is a miracle no-one was seriously injured.
At the back of the garage on the paddock side, members of Williams, Lotus, HRT and Toro Rosso attacked the blaze with fire hoses. All this was captured live by TV crews of the BBC and Sky Sports.
It is believed fuel that was stored in the Williams garage had exploded, and the resulting blaze had damaged all the equipment in the garage, Bruno Senna’s car was still in the garage and was seen after the blaze covered in extinguishing powder, Maldonado’s car was still in the FIA parc ferme waiting to be checked by the FIA scrutineers after it had won the Spanish Grand Prix.
Team Principal Sir Frank Williams was present in the garage giving a victory speech when the fire broke out, but he was quickly wheeled to safety according to his daughter Claire. Reserve driver Valtteri Bottas stated, “I was there when Frank Williams was giving his speech to everyone, I felt an explosion from behind, somewhere from the fuel area, and everyone ran out quickly.”
Photos published in the German media showed that even Team Manager Dickie Stanford had been involved in putting out the fire. “Everything in our garage is totally destroyed,” Stanford said afterwards. Race winner Maldonado was seen carrying his 12 year old cousin Manuel, who had an injured right foot and was holding the winner’s trophy, to safety while circuit personnel evacuated the pit lane area.
“The team, the fire services and the police are working together to determine the root cause of the fire and an update statement will be released in due course,” Williams said in a statement.
They still have to fully assess the damage but other teams have already said they would help the British privateer team to replace lost equipment they need for the Monaco Grand Prix in two weeks time.