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Shanghai F1 grass fire mystery remains; emergency team on standby

Formula 1 chiefs have been left scratching their heads after overnight investigations into the repeated grass fire at Shanghai’s Turn 7 failed to deliver an answer as to the cause.

Marshals rush to put out the fire on the grass

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

The FIA began a detailed probe on Friday night after two separate fires on the same area of grass inside Turn 7 disrupted running on the opening day of track action.

First practice for the Chinese Grand Prix on Friday morning had to be red-flagged after a blaze erupted on the grass before the same section later caught fire at the end of the first session of sprint qualifying.

While there was no red flag this time, because session running had already ended, it did trigger a delay to the start of SQ2.

The FIA sent personnel to the area on Friday evening to conduct an analysis of what was causing the problems, but there has been no firm conclusion.

While it seems certain that flying sparks from F1 cars are being thrown into the grass, triggering the fires, what isn’t known is what is causing things to burn so much.

It is understood that there is no sign of there being a flammable material or chemicals on the grass – which could perhaps have been discarded there in the build up to the weekend.

There have been theories about the fires being fuelled by methane gas seeping up through the ground and then getting ignited.

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The Shanghai circuit is built on a swamp, which could be a cause of a build-up of gas. There are also understood to be various pipes that run underneath the venue too, so it could be that one has cracked.

However, the FIA inspections did not trigger any obvious evidence of gas being present, further adding to the mystery over what is happening.

But while there are no answers, the FIA has taken measures to ensure that the fire problem does not cause trouble if it repeats itself again.

A short statement from the FIA said the grass had been watered down and extra precautions taken with fire vehicles in attendance.

“Although we are still uncertain why grass fires occurred in yesterday's sessions, we are taking pre-emptive measures ahead of today's track activities,” said the statement.

“We will be watering the grass in the affected areas and will have an emergency fire response team on standby at Turn 7.”

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