FIA to investigate blaze after Maldonado's glory

Governing body looks into Williams fire after 30 people taken to hospital while team give thanks for Spanish Grand Prix support

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The Independent Online

The FIA is to investigate the reasons for the fire which broke out in the Williams garage at the Circuit de Catalunya on Sunday afternoon, 90 minutes after the team's driver Pastor Maldonado had sensationally won the Spanish Grand Prix.

The governing body of world motorsport said that 31 people had been treated by staff at the circuit's highly equipped medical centre, while seven had been transferred to local hospitals.

"The FIA is collaborating closely with the Spanish authorities investigating this incident and will be providing a further update as soon as more information becomes available," a statement said.

Fire – a horribly familiar sight in the sport up until the 1970s, is thankfully an unusual occurrence today – thanks to safety crusades from people such as Sir Jackie Stewart, Professor Sid Watkins and the FIA. In 1994, a leak during the Benetton driver Jos Verstappen's pit stop in the German GP led to a spectacular blaze, while the image of Pedro Diniz's Forti Corse ablaze in Argentina the following year, again due to a fuel leak after a pit stop, made front pages globally.

Both incidents were anomalies, however, thanks to massively strong cars and fuel tanks and safety measures such as dry-break fuel couplings. Refuelling was banned in 2011, and the sport now has an excellent safety record. That is why Sunday's fire was such a shock.

A Williams representative said the fire was believed to have originated in its fuel-storage area, and confirmed that four team personnel had been injured. One was soon released, while the other three had been transferred to local hospitals.

"The Williams F1 Team would like to thank all of the teams and the FIA for their support in today's incident," the team said in a statement.

The Caterham team said all of their employees had been accounted for and that four had been taken to the medical centre, one with a minor hand injury and three with respiratory issues. A Force India mechanic also suffered from smoke inhalation and was under observation.

The FIA's media delegate, Matteo Bonciani, was an unwitting victim of the incident.

"I will think of this as the most stupid thing I have ever done in my life," he said, after entering the fire area to assist despite wearing just his usual uniform of shirt and slacks. "You don't think, you just act, and I was helping to move people out of all the smoke. Then suddenly you realise that you are really struggling to breathe and the next minute, like many others, you are vomiting green stuff."

Bonciani was one of the 31 people who received treatment. He returned to his duties later that evening.