Minardi escapes from pitlane fire

Minardi's pit crew were lucky to escape without any injuries following a spectacular refuelling fire on Gianmaria Bruni's car in the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday

Minardi escapes from pitlane fire

The Italian had come in for his second refuelling stop of the race on lap 31 when he slightly missed his pit markings. That led to the crew failing to correctly fit the refuelling nozzle to the car because of the angle it was trying to be attached at and some fuel residue from an earlier stop leaked onto the hot exhausts before bursting into flames.

Despite the initial size of the blaze, Minardi's pit crew quickly dealt with the fire. But in their eagerness to look after Bruni, he was sprayed with dry powder extinguisher, which he subsequently inhaled. That left him unable to breath and he had no choice but to climb out of the car and retire - even though the car had not been damaged at all.

Speaking to Autosport.com, Bruni said: "It was a big fire. The guy who came to sort out the fire thought it was all over me so he put the stuff all over my race suit and it went through my helmet so I could not breath."

Minardi boss Paul Stoddart said he was relieved that no-one had been
injured in the fire, but admitted that the blaze looked more spectacular than it was with less than one litre of fuel actually spilt.

"Although I have criticised the refuelling rigs in the past, they are actually very, very safe," said Stoddart. "The nozzle had gone on slightly skew-whiff and unless you get a proper connection it won't release what is in the hose.

"Obviously what got spilt came out of the nozzle and it was enough fuel, about 1.2kg, to make it look pretty spectacular. It wasn't actually an enormous amount of fuel."

Stoddart also confirmed that had Bruni not been given a face full of fire extinguisher then he could actually have carried on.

"Driver safety always comes first," he said. "The car could have carried on but it was a bit unfair on the driver. In a normal fire situation you would not look to go any further because it is game, set and match. This time the car was okay but we shot the driver full of retardant and he was not okay."

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