Jubilation turned to panic when a fire broke out in the Williams-Renault garage while the team was still celebrating its first Formula 1 victory in eight years.
Thirty-one people suffered injuries in the incident after the conclusion of the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix, in Barcelona on Sunday (May 13). Most of the cases were related to smoke inhalation and treated at the Circuit de Catalunya medical centre. More serious injuries were transported to area hospitals,
The Williams team issued a statement indicating “Four team personnel were injured in the incident and subsequently taken to the medical centre.” The statement further said that one of those had subsequently been released, while three remained hospitalized for treatment. The Caterham team is also reporting that a number of their staff needed medical attention.
Sky Sports reports that the fire broke out approximately 90 minutes after the race ended in the Williams F1 Team garage after “some kind of explosion” while team owner Frank Williams was congratulating his staff. Seventy-year-old Williams, a paraplegic, was safely taken from the garage area as the fire spread quickly. Though the actual cause has not been announced, Sky Sports speculates that the fire was due to a leak occurred when fuel was being drained from Bruno Senna’s car.
“I was there when Frank Williams was giving his speech to everyone,” Williams test driver Valtteri Bottas is quoted as saying by BBC Sports. “I felt an explosion from behind, somewhere from the fuel area, and everyone ran out quickly.”
The Formula 1 website states that Williams staff as well as those from Force India and Caterham acted quickly to put out the fire before emergency responders and circuit fire officials arrived on the scene. Fire officials and police, along with team Williams and the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), are investigating the incident and looking for the cause of the fire.
The incident brought the celebration by Williams racing team to an end. Pastor Maldonado’s victory had just returned Williams to the top spot on the podium, something the team hadn’t celebrated since 2004.