F1 Winter Break
A new take on Heidfeld’s Renault explosion
Posted By: James Allen  |  01 Aug 2011   |  2:29 pm GMT  |  141 comments

One of the more extraordinary moments of the Hungarian Grand Prix was the fire and subsequent explosion on Nick Heidfeld’s Renault following his pit stop.

This was the second fire for the German this year. He had just made a stop in which he was delayed and the sidepods caught fire.

“In his second pit stop we had a problem with one of the wheel nuts meaning that the car was sat at high revs for a long time, ” explained LRGP chief race engineer Alan Permane. “This meant a build-up of heat which caused a fire. Although it looked spectacular it was only a small part of bodywork which burnt on the left-hand sidepod.”

This video, shot by a spectator, shows the incident far more clearly than the race pictures.

Renault have not mentioned the explosion in any official communications, nor said what caused it. Paddock speculation was that it could have been a KERS battery, but Renault have said “no 100%” to this today. They are carrying out an internal investigation.

Engineers say that the high pressure air system is also housed around there and there are other high pressure hoses which would blow the side of the car out if the pressure was released quickly.

It makes uncomfortable watching from the point of view of the fire marshal, who is hit by some debris from the explosion. This may well prompt a review of packaging to avoid a repeat of the incident.

It shows how hot everything runs with modern F1 cars and with exhausts exiting at the front of the sidepods, how close to the edge these things run.

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This should prompt a review of how come Marshall's have to use tiny little extinguishers which means they have to stand so close !


i guess they should be carrying extinguishers 5 times the size and weight right?! those extinguishers are already heavy. plus, they are 'fire marshals', the risk of these things is inherent in their job, a risk they personally accept, just like firemen. everyone knows there's a risk a whole car could explode in their faces, most of all the marshals and drivers


'The subsequent explosion of the left sidepod occurred as the cold fire extinguisher form came into to contact with the aforementioned small gas canister, which all cars carry in order to feed the pneumatic valve system of the engine.

It has been confirmed by the Hungaroring that a marshal – hit by flying debris as the sidepod exploded – suffered no more than bruising to the leg.'


They should add 'luckily' into that statement. Marshalls should not have to get that close to a burning car - they were stood right next to it! No fire service that I have ever seen stands anywhere near that close to a fire of any sort, let alone a potentially explosive one with batteries and petrol involved!


David Ryan you hit the head of the nail. F1 dodged a bullet when Vettel managed to swerve and miss the tow vehicle which was heading backward up the pit exit. Luckily Sebastian did not plough head on at probably 100kph into the tow truck and Heidfelt's smouldering Renault, and the marshals. I'm certain it is against the rules to go in the opposite direction in F1. So marshals are exempt from this? So dumb, they could have lost their current Champion. It reminded me of of decades before F1 amateurs at fire and rescue scenes such as Bandini at Monaco '67 and Williamson at Zandvoort '73. The weak link is the drivers themselves as they have little input or force majeur into their own safety...all is supposed to be done for them. I'm wishing Vettel had come around, pulled in, got out and gave Race Control a public shaming. What dumb asses! The pits should have been closed as soon as the fire erupted and a pace car deployed. And professional fire fighting trucks / workers to extinuish the blaze. Are they trying to return to the 60's and 70's races of incineration?


I agree!

Marshall poor training is the problem here rather than anything else.

It's understandable that a burning car may explode at any time.


The marshal was in a bit of a Catch-22 to be fair - the car was parked on the very edge of the circuit and so he had a choice between standing on the circuit itself with his back to the cars (very bad) or standing nearer the flames and relying on his fire extinguisher and fire-retardant gear (still bad but slightly better). None of that is to blame Heidfeld for where he stopped I should add (I'd have done exactly the same) and judging from the incident where they towed the car up the pitlane the wrong way, and gave Vettel something to think about putting it mildly, there probably is a case to be made for more training. I wouldn't blame the marshal too much for that particular choice though.


Also to add to your point the toxicity from all that carbon fiber & god knows what else won't be doing the track Marshall's health any favours.

Please arm them with extinguishers that don't resemble toys.


Although it does look dangerous I do believe that cars are better than they used to be...I can remember some huge fires in the turbo era, and like EJ said I'm glad refuelling has gone...

Don't forget Le Mans ages back (55?) when a car on fire went over the trackside fence and caused carnage...that was due to the magnesium construction


Ade, Le mans 1955 was the worst ever accident in motorsports with 83 spectators and the driver Pierre Levegh being killed. You are correct in that magnesium (Electron body panels) was to blame for exacerbating the fuel tank fire of Levegh's Mercedes which exploded when it landed. It burned for hours in the spectators area opposite the pit entrance. Mercedes withdrew before the race ended and Mike Hawthorn in a Jaguar won. Lithium battery fires must be just as difficult to put out and they explode! F1 needs to review their location and encapsule them safely within an F1 racecar.


Things could get worse again with more reliance on batteries. An electric motorcycle caught fire at the TTXGP race at Silverstone a few weeks ago; they dumped about 20 extinguishers on it with no result, and ended up having to just let it burn itself out. Fortunately it was in a clear part of the assembly area and not on track or in the pits. Something like that could have been very nasty. It seems marshals are not yet geared up for dealing with lithium battery fires.


'Hate to say I told you so', as the Hives song goes, but earlier in the season I posted that forward exiting exhausts were inherently unsafe and should be banned 'before Silverstone'. One attempted ban ran into all sorts of issues, but the basic fact remains, heat should be removed from the area where drivers and fuel is located, or one day this will go off on a bigger scale e.g. in a side-shunt where the driver is trapped between another car and a tyre-wall. It doesn't take much to ignite tyres.....imagine a whole wall of them. We haven't had a driver injured by fire for a very long time, I can't see why we are even flirting with it now. Interesting to note on the video that the marshalls stopped fighting the actual fire for a while, they were spraying the wrong bit of the car and not looking.


That heating the area by the driver and fuel point and the crash scneario you describe is VERY relavent post the heidfeld incident.

Lets stop shagging around, move the exhausts to the back where they are supposed to be.

Then the teams can do whatever they like with the engine mapping for cooling (cooling, yeah right!)...

Sure the top teams will lose some engineering toys but come on.....


I agree. We haven't had a driver injured by fire for a very long time - probably Niki Lauda I daresay. It's all too easy to take safety for granted nowadays, however, after recently watching the magnificent BBC Documentary "The Killing Years" it's my view that there can never be too much emphasis placed on safety - ever.

Also, as much as we might bemoan the Tilke designed tracks, they are without masterpieces of design with regards to safety.


More recently than you think.

Gerhard Berger suffered minor injuries when his Ferrari caught fire after crashing at Imola in 1989. It put him out of action for the next race, I think.

More recently, Jos Verstappen suffered very minor burns when his car caught fire in the pits in 1994.


Gravel traps are just as safe as run-off areas. Tilke has made sure that drivers can continue after making all sorts of mistakes whereas before, with gravel traps, drivers had to be a lot more careful. I ma divided on whether this is a godo thing or not to be honest.

Additionally, drivers now often find an advantage by leaving the circuit because there is juts more tarmac waitign for them - just watch Spa in a few weeks for one of the best advtanges of that on the exit of turn 1 (despite this not being a Tilke track). This is definitely not a good thing


The problem with gravel traps is that they sometimes cause cars to dig into the gravel and cause them to roll over. That doesn't happen on tarmac.


I'm not sure it's true that gravel traps are just as safe as tarmac for F1 cars. I believe a lot of the impetus for building tarmac run-offs came from Schumacher's big accident at Silverstone, where the floor of his car skated over the gravel.

Gravel is certainly safer for bike racing, and I'd guess also for touring cars and GTs as they're heavier than F1 cars and don't have completely flat floors.


James, I've not seen it mentioned anywhere, is the marshall OK?


Yes, that's a very good question. Without the marshalls, we don't have the sport.

Personally, eye protection is the number one piece of safety equipment I would have liked to have seen on the marshalls. Also, you'll note they weren't long thrust extinguishers - maybe 20 to 30 seconds tops.


It seems the nitrogen cylinder for the pneumatic valves did go pop on heidfelds car. http://t.co/Nn3ctOZ according to ScarbsF1 on Twitter. Renault expected to confirm reason this evening.


I've unfortunately been in a situation to see batteries explode before and that was my immediate suspicion, too.

Renault explaining 100% that this isn't the cast - without bothering suggest what may be - only serves to strengthen that suspicion.


I guess I need to put a curb on my suspicious nature...

Thanks to those who've posted the true cause of the explosion.


Any driver leaving the pitlane during this would have been "forced" to illegally cross the white line - do the rules cover this situation?


Surely the stewards would not give any penalty to a driver crossing the white line to avoid a broken down car. That would be just stupid........although this is F1 where common sense does not always prevail.


Pretty sure in this situation its ok to cross the white line

In Monaco 2006 when Webber broke down he parked at the end of the pit exit and many drivers had to cross the white line to get around him and they weren't penalised


The rules are broad enough for race control to interpret them as they see fit. I think in the WORST POSSIBLE scenario, a driver crosses the white line and makes contact with the a driver coming down the pit straight, they could possibly hand out a penalty, but if it was clear from telemetary and video that the driver had taken unavoidable evasive action when crossing the line, it would be a harsh steward who punished them.


thats scary stuff looking at how it not just caught fire but how it imploded. Sometimes marshals are not given enough recognition for the dangerous work they do, especially given the type of incident and how close they are to the action.


It did the exact opposite of implode... I totally take your point regarding the marshalls though.


I thought they set fire to the car because they were angry that nick drives so slow?


Either that or Nick's engineer said, "C'mon NIck, light a fire under it" and he took it literally.


I hope FOM/FIA doesn't go out a ban the fan video claiming it to be FOM's property like they have done in some incident before, when one similar fan video was used as evidence in appeal.


I thought this was solely limited to the TV feed these days?

F1 tickets conditions mention video recording for personal use is OK. Only the professional material is prohibited without a license.

The only GP were supposedly you could not bring your camcorder in the T&Cs was in Japan surpriingly enough. Although, that was back in 2007 and in practice, there were many spectators filming, not bother by anyone.


Question is does youtube count as broadcast. I would say it does. Stupid I know, but they are intent on being idiots about the. One of the few areas where Moto GP is better run.


I'd be interested to know the legal basis that FOM use to have these sorts of videos removed from YouTube. Are they perhaps claiming that the sporting event itself is an artistic work and that the video is therefore a copy of it?

If the conditions on the back of the ticket could be held to be a legally binding contract (do you see them before you've handed over your money?) it would be between the seller and the purchaser; YouTube wouldn't be a party to that contract so would have no obligations under it.


Yes, correct - Youtube is indeed considered a broadcast. FOM removed a spectators recording of the Kubica crash in Montreal. No problem to film it, just to post it.

It's all done under the guise of protecting the host broadcasters TV rights, the value of which is, of course, money in Bernie's pocket.


Expect it to be banned...


It's just a scratch...


'It was only a small part of the bodywork which burnt' - true, though when the shrapnel blew out across the nose, wheels and about 18 feet into the track, I'm sure trying to downplay it lost credibility.

I'm sure Kubica was watching that with interest. He's barely got his hand back together and he might think twice about sitting in a car that tends to detonate if you hit the rev limiter in the pits...


I cant believe the speed of the cars coming out of the pits

totally crazy not to have a safety car and then to tow the car in reverse up pit lane. It's very luck that no one got hurt!


i think charlie was right not to bring the safety car out, all that would've happened is 20 odd cars gunning for the pits all exiting very close to the car/debris/smoke/marshals. There were a handful of cars that came in to the pits pre-empting the safety car that didn't come, which was dangerous enough. If anything the pitlane should have been closed for two maybe three laps allowing the marshals to reverse up the pitlane towing the renault.


No closed pits, no pace car, no fire truck, marshalls without adequate rescue gear (Heidfelt could have been a Roger Williamson), marshalls with their backs to the race traffic and pit exit traffic, what a travesty.

Charlie Whiting is, um, judgementally challenged. He invariably errs on the side of risk rather than caution... and this latest time his World Champion Vettel's very existence was placed at peril, nevermind the apparently expendable marshals. This guy msut GO, and soon. The drivers know it, alas they have no impact on their very own safety. Simply, there are no Stewarts, Laudas, or Moss types around amongst their current membership. GPDA...Jacques was correct...why even have it?

F1 has always been behind in their approach to safety and this farce in Hungary demonstrates nothing much has changed since 1955.


I agree there should have been no safety car as that would have made a bad situation worse with half the field pitting, but I do think they should have closed the pit lane when they were towing the car backwards up the pitlane.


As I understand it the race director can close the pit lane while the safety car is deployed. Surely this would have been the thing to do, that the way the car and the debris could have cleared away without endangering anyone.


Yes. Pit lane should have been closed for recovery of the car and cleaning up the road.

The control and marshalling of this incident was brave, but not good.

FIA should use this situation to introduce the 2012 exhaust exit regs from the next race. Why they didn't do this in the first place, instead of messing about with engine mapping is hard to understand. How difficult is it to fabricate a length of exhaust pipe to exit at the rear of the car anyway?


Yes, it was very hairy when the car was being towed up the pitlane exit as Vettel was leaving the pits. He gets it sideways as he comes off the rev limiter - could have been a nasty incident.

It was strange that in this era of throwing the safety car out for just about anything, they didn't in this instance.


Not to mention Perez (IIRC) actually overtook someone (Petrov, I think), under yellow flags right as this was happening. With so many questionable calls by the stewards these days I don't understand why they don't call stuff like this. You do not pass under yellows. Unless it involved someone named Hamilton is like they don't even pay attention.



James, what's your thought on this?

Watching the marshals working on the track with cars flying past and then towing the car backwards into the pits was crazy.


Nick, your on fire..!No Nick your literally on fire!



Ted Kravitz's round up said it may have been caused by the exhausts disintegrating during the race, which sounds rather worrying!

Is there any reason to believe that the odd exhaust system on these Renaults makes them more susceptible to this overheating or to things catching light? As you say, it is Heidfeld's second fire of the season. Those aren't good odds!

Also, what a great video! Great to hear the cars approaching at speed and dropping through the gears ready for turn 1!


I liked that too, about the cars entering turn one. The only sound I don't like is the fart fart fart sound of the off accelerator

pressure system, or whatever they call it.


Wow!Pretty scary!


Too close for comfort.

Sure Renault can identify what the problem was and fix it quickly.

Why don't F1 cars have installed systems like rally cars to extinquish fires?


I believe F1 cars do have fire extinguishers but only for the cockpit and engine compartment. I imagine it would be a much bigger challenge to design a system to deal with external bodywork fires like this one.


James, do you think that it would be sensible, on safety grounds, for the FIA to ban front exit exhausts?

It seems to be an unnecessary extra risk to package the exhaust around the driver's safety cell.

What would have happened had the driver been unconscious?


There isn't a specifically inherent reason why a forward facing exhaust system would be more dangerous than a rear facing, or an upwards facing exhaust system. In all cases the pipes themselves are incredible heat sinks, no matter which direction they're heading.

To be fair to your question however, contemporary F1 cars are not only pinnacles of engineering and innovation, they're also pinnacles of packaging - and aerodynamic efficiency plays a really big role nowadays, as I'm sure all of us are aware. The challenge which F1 designers face nowadays is how to make a given car as slippery as possible, with as little frontal area as possible, with as few vortex drag points as possible, with as much downforce as possible - all the while accomodating radiators, exhaust systems, batteries, nitrogen tanks, computer systems, air ducts, manifolds etc etc underneath all that wonderful, slippery body work.

In this instance, Renault seemingly have pushed the "exhaust heat sink" issue too close to the packaging limits I rather think.

My understanding is that the FIA have mandated rear facing engine exhausts with the new engine class, or is that still up in the air?


I thought the move to rear facing exhausts is for next season. That's how they are effectively banning blown diffusers.


As this has happened twice shouldn't the FIA do something? The only reason these incidents haven't resulted in driver injury is because Heidfeld has luckily been able to exit the car so quickly. If a Renault crashes later this season and the driver is concussed, this could end up a lot worse. I think the FIA should be investigating the causes and maybe mandating a design change for the car.


Heidfeld's Renault caught fire right in front of the Gold 4 grandstand, close to turn 1 where I was sitting. It was indeed spectacular - Heidfeld immediately jumped out of the car, but he did not run too far way. Fire marshals did seem to be disorganized...running around, but not doing anything. I was surprised that even when the car was taken away, they did not clean all debrief away from the track. Massa him the debris on his out lap.

After few seconds there was the explosion, which was not big...nothing serious I would say...

I immediately thought that it was the exhaust...what else you can suspect on a Renault car?


Hey AlexD,

I hope you had a great time there.

When I saw James' article, I thought I'd see a comment from you and there you are!

Great to hear your perspective on this event.


Amazed there wasn't a safety car.


I can't believe they didn't release the safety car!!!

If you watch the footage at the 50 second mark two cars come out of the pits (a Willimas and a Torro Rosso). They were at full speed and were within metres of Marshalls. The Marshall checks over his shoulder several times but that was too close.

I thing if the stewards saw that footage I think they'd agree


Nick's body language at the end of the video sums up the Renault season so far.


What was more of a failure, was the race director not calling out the safety car. There are marshalls dealing with an un-contained fire and drivers blasting the debris into the air.

I know we are are to keen to critsise when they sent it our for marginal incidents, but this is an issue.


I wonder if the explosion was actually caused by the fire-marshalls spraying foam which cooled something a little too quickly?


As bad as it was, it's still not as big as Hollywood movies often have with car fires.


Yes, but...Hollywood movies aren't real.


Motor racing? I've seen better car chases on the telly.

There you have it. Unbelievable.


In Ted Kravitz's pit lane report for the BBC that aired last night, he says that Renault discovered that their exhausts had practically disintegrated before this pit-stop, the left one more so than the right on Heidfeld's car.

During the stop hot gases were leaking into the side-pod from the failed exhaust and set fire to the side of the car as it exited the pit lane.

The explosion is now thought to have been the engine air bottle for the valvegear, not a KERS battery as previously suggested.


Unsafe release from the pits, then?


Well, maybe, but I think that by the time the pit crew realised how bad it was Heidfeld had gone. If he'd been stationary another 10 seconds then I think they would have told him to turn it off and get out in a hurry.

Also it was probably better to have that air bottle explode away from the pit lane.

The best solution of course would be to find out why the exhausts were falling apart and cure that.


Yes, I agree.


I have just one thing to say about this video:

Sound on TV unbelievable sucks compared to this!

I can't understand why FOM feed has such a crap sound. But I guess it's like with rock concerts.

When someone records the show from the sweet spot from the crowd and with a decent equipment, it's always 10 times better then official recording from the mixer.


And it's even better in the flesh. (To the point it becomes an addiction!)

I believe the TV sound need to be turned down so that you can hear the commentary.

Go to a grand prix if you can afford it. Just remember that sometimes it is cheaper to go further away from home with low costs flights and currency leverages.


That was really an amazing stuff - I mean, I can't remember something so unusual happening to F1 car...

And the second thought for me was something like "forward exhaust?! They should take it off immediately!"

I know, I am overreacting, but it was scary.

And I was a bit surprised Safety car hadn't been deployed... when marshals was towing Nick's car back to the pits they nearly collided with RBR (it was Vettel if I am not mistaken).


Watching that again, cannot believe they didnt put the safety car out especially when they towed it up the pitlane into oncoming traffic


Do you know if the Marshall is okay?


I think Lotus plan to place the exhaust at the back of the car after the break, so surely nothing major will happen after an investigation.

Once the exhaust isn't close to body work or beside whatever caused this explosion, there shouldn't be a problem


Team Lotus already does race with exhaust placed at the back of the car.

However, the Genii's Renault team sponsored by Group Lotus is indeed rumoured to be planning just that.

PS: great drives by Vodafone's Jenson Button and Marlboro's Fernando Alonso last Sunday. 🙂


Just curious here... why do you say Vodafone's Jenson and Marlboro's Fernando?


I couldn't have explained this better myself. 🙂 Thanks Peter C.

It does prove though that Lotus (the car manufacturer sponsoring the Renault GP team) was very savvy in obtaining the black and gold colour scheme and name of the Renault team. Even James Allen and Martin Brundle get to call Renault by the name of Lotus on occasions.


Ahhh lol ok! Cheers Peter =)

Just sound funny to me that's all, though nothing is more amusing than the Lotus Renault and Renault Lotus confusion caused by the two teams 😛


He was being ironic. Look at the post Damien was replying to.

The car that caught fire was a RENAULT, although it has Lotus written on it in BIG letters. This is because of advertising.

The reference by Damien to Vodaphone's Jenson Button & Marlboro's Fernando Alonso, puts them in the same ball-park......ADVERTISING.

Yes? The Renault was called a Lotus in the previous post because of the advertising on it. The only Lotuses on the track are Team Lotus entries...........with Caterham written on them.

Oh ...[mod].....now wait a minute.....


Very concerning to see, and confirms my opinion that the FFe puts too much too close to the driver. Having flames at the back if the car is bad enough. But having them licking the sides of the cockpit is too risky IMHO.

The Marshall was pretty silly to stand right next to the burning car. Surely he'd be safer trying to spray across the fire.


Heidfeld seemed to be pretty frustrated.


To me it looks like the rapid cooling from the extinguishers could be what caused the explosion. Not that they could have stood back and done nothing though.


James, may I go just a little off topic with a suggestion for a new F1 rule?

This is prompted by the way Massa allowed Alonso to pass him yesterday. The sport is motor RACING. And any driver who decides to move to the side of the track like a feeble pussycat and not RACE should be penalised.

How about this penalty: the stewards can scrutinise all passing moves to see whether a passed driver failed to put up a credible defence. If they find he did fail, he gets a 3 place grid penalty for next race.

Of course they may find a good reason [mechanical failure].

But it could simply be a case of caught napping or team orders. In which case the penalty applies.

This may be the answer to team orders. Any thoughts?


Any thoughts? Yer. Team orders are allowed from 2011 onward, end of story.


So this would be your answer to keep the stewards so busy that they miss all the other little things they penalize drivers for, like maybe driving another driver off into the grass while recovering from a spinout. Or an unsafe release from the pits. Hmmm, might work.


It is still racing, teams against each others, not just drivers.


Seriously. Off Topic.


We've had countless overtakes this season. How much time do u think the stewards have? It takes them a few mins to look at serious pit release incidents, y should they waste time going through each overtake with a fine comb?

Y aren't football players yellow carded for a miss-placed pass?

I respect your opinion, but you're looking for a solution to a problem that can't b solved


If you were joking, this would be rather funny.


not that i don't have sympathy for the mechanic, that looked painful, but those F1 cars zing past at incredible speed, TV doesn't do much to illustrate the sheer speed of these machines, when theyre running alongside each other u think that looks ordinary, but this footage really puts everything into better perspective.


The main focus of this story has been about Heidfeld managing to escape from the car with little or no mention of whether the marshal sustained any injury or not. Judging by this alternative angle it looks as though it was actually a fairly minor explosion and he should not be seriously hurt, but it seems that reports on these kinds of event often forget the marshals, without whom the race simply could not be held. Hope he is ok.

Also, F1 has had near misses with racing cars nearly coming into contact with marshals/track vehicles (Lizzi at Nurburgring a couple of years back, Heidfeld hitting the safety car door in Brazil back in '02). Seems like this is another area of safety that should be looked at more closely - should the marshals have been on track with cars still doing full speed down the main straight?


Don't forget that this was technically still in the pit lane exit. This kept the marshals away from the full speed part of the track, but did put them in the way of cars accelerating out of the pits. I was more concerned when Vettel had to swerve past the truck dragging Heidfeld's car back into the pits. This seemed unnecessarily dangerous to me.


The more I look at this the more I think it was pure luck nothing bad happened.

Rupert Richardson

Why, oh why was there no safety car or red flag? Crazy - much too much like Piers Courage for comfort


That would have been completely unnecessary for an incident that was well away from the racing line, on a straight where incidents are less likely to occur.

However, it was dangerous to have cars exiting the pits and accelerating towards the marshalls and debris, and particularly the moment when the car was being towed back to the pitlane with cars still exiting.

The safest and most sensible option would have been a little message from Race Control to say "Pit Lane Closed," then all the cars would have been kept well away from the incident, with much less negative impact on the race than a safety car or red flag would have had.

As it was, nothing was done by Charlie, and the drivers all managed to successfully avoid any nasty moments. So, no harm, no foul.


I'm glad you've picked up on this James as it's a topic that has been kept pretty quiet considering the nature of the incident.

It's concerning that this isn't the first time that this has happened (with exception to the explosion) and Renault hasn't really done enough to stop it from happening.

I for one am very thankful that the marshal got away with it unscathed and as you say hopeful further measures will be taken to prevent such a thing happening again.

All the best.



We are lucky the wind direction was blowing all that smoke away from the track, and not onto it. I'm not sure if double yellows were being waved but the cars were going far too fast past the incident in my opinion. Word from Scarbs is that it was a nitrogen tank explosion.

Hope the marshal that took the hit is okay, any word on him James?

And it looks like Heidfeld took a bit of a scare.

All those flames and all that hair? Time for a shave ol' boy...


What *I think they need to review is the fact that cars were blasting by coming out of the pits at full chat; running over debris and passing within a car's width of those marshals. If it had blown up again someone could have been thrown in front of one and killed.

If I were one of the marshals I would be looking for some twerp little driver to punch out.


Is there not an onboard fire suppression system?


It also shows has fast those cars leaving the pits were going.

This is a warning shot. I hope someone is paying attention.


I actually feared for the marshal's life there. I undertook a project to do with F1 car developments and I know how close to the ultimate limits everything is - and when that thing went up in flames I just knew that everyone will have to keep their distance.

When the explosion happened and the marshal walked away - i breathed a sigh of relief. but this incidents shows tht marshals have to be a lot careful when putting out flames, and also be mindful of the distance they are at. maybe FIA should provide extinguishers which can extinguish from a distance probably ones with high velocity.

its all to do with pressure, but if fia can make it work in different temperatures and a high pressure fire extinguisher thn they could possibly have saved someone's life in the future


Outlawing the idiotic front-exit exhausts might be a good place to start. If I was a marshal, I would raise a big stink after seeing that.


I've heard in a report that the exhaust was deteriorating and would have failed at some point but the pit stop sped that up. Surely Renault/Genni/Lotus whatever they want to be called nowadays need to investigate this as its the second fire we have seen like this this season. That marshal could have been seriously injured or worse.


What I don't understand is race control actions at the scene: no safety car while marshals on track, towing the car into pit lane which was wet (webber I think almost spun at that moment at pit exit) and (the most ridiculous) just drive through for the guy who overtook under yellow flag right at the burning car! In my opinion it's DSQ at that very moment! But after all this I think race control should be DSQ-ed...


It was vettel who got sideways exiting the pits as they were towing the Renault up the pit exit

Christopher Mould

Well done on obtaining this excellent video. There is clearly a safety issue, here, so presumably the FIA will also want to know what happened. Hopefully Lotus-Renault won't hide the truth.


What is also worrying James is when they removed the car from the track they used a tow truck and drove up the exit to the pit lane causing Vettel to make some emergency maneuvers when exiting from his stop. Watch it back. It wasn't mentioned in commentary cause I thought it was highly dangerous and could have caused a serious accident


“This meant a build-up of heat which caused a fire. Although it looked spectacular it was only a small part of bodywork which burnt on the left-hand sidepod.”

I would hate to see a large fire then!

The marshall was lucky to hobble away to be honest, then there was the farcical scene of towing it back down the pit lane, causing vettel to narrowly miss the tow truck.


I thought the fire and explosion were pretty cool, all these people fussing about safety of the car are ignoring the fact these cars are inheritly dangerous, they routinely go really fast toward concrete barriers all the time, a bit of danger is good! What did concern me greatly was the lack of a safety car while marshalls were on track, that is unacceptable, those guys lives were at real risk for what?


Why was the safety car not deployed?


James, would the changes to the blowen defuser have anything to do with it?


With turbocharged engines, we can expect these cars to run a lot hotter.


This incident causes grave misgivings, both as to car design and as to the safety response.

Sorry, but these forward facing exhausts are no safer than the exposed pipes of the front-engined GP and Indy roadster eras. Worse, actually, because of the number of ancillary systems that can and do add pyrotechnics to the situation. Ban FFE, now.

It's also disturbing that in crash or fire situations, the F1 safety response, including deployment of the safety car, so often appears to be slow, indecisive and/or uncoordinated. Due respect to the pioneering efforts of Sid Watkins, Louis Stanley and Jackie Stewart (and the ongoing safety efforts in F1), crash response procedures in F1 appear to have fallen behind those in Indycar (and before it, CART). In EVERY case, road course or oval, the Indycar safety teams are on the scene immediately, in numbers, with firefighters, paramedics and doctors - often before the race car stops moving after the crash.

James, maybe you can do a piece on the hows and whys of F1 safety procedures compared to other series. Does F1 follow the template in Indycar and CART? My understanding is that Indycar has multiple units, each with firefighters and paramedics, positioned at various locations around a given track, insuring that a full response team will deploy immediately and arrive without delay. They are as well-drilled as any pit crew. And these safety squads, the entire complement (not just the doctors and field hospital personnel), travel to every race, period. So fire fighting isn't simply left to the marshals and corner workers, who may vary from track to track. I think that a full Indycar safety team would have been stationed near the pit lane at the Hungaroring, and would have swarmed in to assist Heidfeld and put out the fire.

(Note: recognizing their importance, the entire CART safety unit had a title sponsor during the early and mid-1990s: Simple Green Cleaning Products, hence, "The Simple Green Safety Team.")

I remember watching, horrified, when Ralph Schumacher crashed at Indy some years ago as it took - if I recall, and somebody correct me if I'm wrong - something of the order of two minutes before the F1 safety team reached him. At the time, Max Mosely made remarks to the effect that telemetry indicated that there was no serious problem and, therefore, no need to rush getting there.

Compare that to the CART safety response to Alex Zanardi's horrifying accident in Germany. Yellow flag immediately. They didn't wait. They didn't "check telemetry" to tell them the seriousness of the injury. They went right away, got there even as the car stopped moving, and saved Zanardi's life - even though both of his legs had been severed.

Racing is inherently dangerous. Improving safety in ALL forms of racing is an ongoing challenge and responsibility for those who participate in, and govern, the sport. If this latest Renault incident spurs rule changes (get rid of FFE) and prompts F1 to examine other series for ways to improve safety and adopt some of those ideas (example: the HANS device was firmly established in Indycar well before it was adopted in F1), some good will come of the events of this weekend.


I'd like to understand the safety car decision here - is there a clear definition of what conditions prompt a safety car?

My gut said this was an SC-class incident as soon as the explosion occurred, with debris being strewn across the track and a car on fire.

Watching them pull the car back into the pits afterwards, with pit traffic still bearing down on them at (is it 100km/h at the Hungaroring?) was scary, even from the high TV angle.

Which got me thinking: is the SC rule set not published because it'd give teams too much information, or is it because it's just Charlie's call?

And: I don't recall seeing the actual explosion and marshal getting hit on the TV feed, just the aftermath (might've missed it during a commercial break in AU though).


I'm too glad Michael Bay isn't the Team Principal of Renault F1!


It looks like the marshalls need some training on how to use the extinguishers to put out the fire. It always used to be dry powder to knock down the flames and then Foam to stop the Oxygen getting in, thereby quelling it completely.


There are a lot of risks you take being a motorsport marshal, sadly in this 'Youtube era' one of the biggest risks is criticism from critics who, to be fair to them, have never experienced an on track situation.

The physical risk is minimised by training, experienced incident officers covering your back and experience.

Maybe powder would have been more effective than foam in this instance, but if all you have is foam then that's what you use.

What's your take on UK marshals James?


a lot of people are commenting on the fact there was no safety car during this incident which i can understand as there were marshals on track at a high speed section nonetheless. But my view on it was if the SC was deployed the first thing that would happen is every driver would be heading for the pits for ultimately what is a free pitstop. As the renault was parked on the pit exit you would have nearly every car on the track pass precariously close to it and the marshals, then there is the possibility of drivers crossing the pit exit white line to avoid debris while other cars are at full speed coming down the straight. I think the marshals handled it very well considering (apart from reversing up the pitlane) An aside from that, i am a firefighter and i cringed watching the marshals attack that fire with very little protective clothing but most of all no eye protection, very lucky guys after the car went pop! could have been much more serious if it weren't for luck!


The truth is that fire extinguishers seemed a joke. Any misfortune could have happened to a commissioner.



A review of the marshals might be better, getting that close to a burning car seems rather brave or silly.


Agree..as everyone has pointed out, the explosion, a possible battery fire. toxic smoke..let the thing burn. Not worth a human injury to save a car, no matter what its worth.

A reminder of the dangerousness of this sport comes from many angles..and to more than just the drivers.

To me this is a much worse risk of human life and limb then Hamilton's spin that has everyone so worked up. Suprised they didnt give Petrov a drive through for it.


A safety car would have been stupid as it would have brought cars into the pits, actually making things more dangerous. They should have just closed the pitlane until it was recovered. With no refueling this is a much more sensible option than in previous seasons as you're not going to see cars running out of fuel on-track.

Regarding cars heading down the straight as the marshals were recovering the car; I really don't see any problem with this. The racing line was on the other side of the straight. and given the section was under yellows* there was no reason for any car to deviate from this. Flying bodywork would have lost pretty much all it's speed by the time it had crossed the track, so I think the only real dangers would be from tyre blowouts, suspension failure, or front/rear wing failure, and even these would be unlikely to threaten the marshals.

*I was surprised the yellow flag zone didn't end after the corner actually seems to me to be a lot safer.


Jeremy, you were obviously either a marshall, Heidfeld, Vettel, or one of the drivers who exited the pits. Read my comments before you suggest deploying a safety car is "stupid". F1 dodged a bullt at Hungary.


Safety car would result in many more cars coming through the pits as they use the opportunity to change tyres. You think this is a good idea? Maybe you should read more than just the first line of comments before replying!

Much wiser simply to close the pitlane. You could have the pitlane closed AND the safety car, but with the pitlane closed I don't feel there is a need for the safety car. The racing line was on the other side of the track, there were yellows, and they weren't quite close enough to the braking zone for turn 1.


Unfortunately drivers often don't respect yellow flags as they should. In this case there was a pass under yellow in that spot.

In more than a few cases drivers have gone off track or even crashed under yellows. Yes, sometimes conditions have been appalling but there should be no excuse.

While there hasn't been a driver death since 1994, two marshals have died.

With the all the money that goes around in F1 business, they could easily afford better equipment for marshals as well as hire more professionals for the job.


I use high powerlitium batteries for RC Buggy racing and the fire looked very similar to a lithium battery fire.

Ican only imagine how much bigger the F1 batteries are. A nitrogen bottle would just explode, this looked a sustained localisedd fire source to me.


Do the FiA have the authority impound or examine the car or to see ant analysis doen by the team?


Its the sudden plume of browny smoke after the explosions that makes me think of a battery fire.


The danger is still the same,



Gotta be honest when I saw it live I was convinced it was a KERS battery explosion. The site of the source and the colour of the explosion pretty much confirmed it


The danger to the marshals here is too reminiscent of that dreadful main straight incident that claimed the life of both the marshall and driver, Tom Price, during the 77 South African GP. No chances should be taken with marshals safety. None at all. Ever!


Respect goes to the Marshalls. He was really close when it exploded with an obvious limp. Hope all is well with him.

There's always room of improvement to make it safer for the Marshalls. Brings back to mind Heikki's spectacular fire in Singapore last year.


The fire marshall was also wearing a plastic raincoat for heaven's sake. Has no one learnt the lessons of Roger Williamson's fatal accident in 1973?????


As a fire fighter we deal with car fires all the time and seeing a small explosion like this is not unusual. Its the reason why traditionally never ever move closely around wheels and suspension parts.

However with the onset on "green" technology the danger factor is increasing massively. LPG and high voltage cables and battery packs are increasingly presenting huge problems for the fire service. With no external signs of LPG conversions (especially if engulfed in flame) explosions are a lot worse and more common than this minor incident! 1.35min



looks ridiculously unsafe:

- risk to marshals and to trackside fans (unprotected explodable device)

- the ongoing race, and cars passing by made it impossible for the marshals to properly attack the car with their extinguishers.

this was a safety car moment.

also the absence of packaging and safety rules on this part of the car...

i say away with these exhaust formats!


There was a time when F1 cars had an engine at the front and the exhaust went to the back.

Now we have engines at the back and exhausts at the front............!

Close shave, but an accident waiting to happen it seems.

Ban boosted aero I'd say, then ban exotic aero all together.



Latest comment from James Alison of Renault to update my blog post...

Full story here


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