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KERS and fuel storage could face review after fire in Williams garage
Posted By: James Allen  |  13 May 2012   |  6:29 pm GMT  |  110 comments

[Updated] The FIA is likely to discuss with teams a review into the storage of fuel and the high voltage KERS systems as well as other potentially hazardous materials after a fire broke out in the Williams garage, an hour after the Spanish Grand Prix finished.

The Williams team was celebrating its first win since 2004, with Sir Frank Williams in the garage and team members as well as media present having just done a celebratory photograph.

The garage was quickly evacuated, but the fire took hold quickly and the garage was gutted. Thick plumes of acrid smoke poured out from the garage

Williams media staff confirmed that no-one had been seriously hurt; four Williams staff members were being treated. It’s believed one is for burns and the rest for smoke inhalation. Meanwhile four staff from the next door Caterham team also received attention, as did one Force India staff member, but were unhurt. The nine were among a total of 31 people who were seen by medical services, according to the FIA, which said that seven people had been taken to hospital.

There is no precise word yet as to what caused the fire, but it appears it occurred while the team was emptying the fuel bowser in the back of the garage. There had been suggestions from other team sources that KERS could have been involved but nothing has been confirmed. Williams and the local emergency services are working together to establish the cause.

Senior figures from two teams said that a fresh look at safety procedures would likely follow this incident.

McLaren’s Jonathan Neale said that existing F1 team health and safety procedures involve a full report being filed on the garage set up at every Grand Prix and a list of how hazardous materials are stored. There is a comprehensive book on how to store fuel, for example, and an incident of this kind hasn’t been seen in Formula 1.

But safety is taken very seriously by teams and the FIA and both sides are likely sit to down via the mechanism of the Sporting Working Group, which oversees operational activities, to review safety measures.

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Not forgetting various equipment upgrades, expansions,

and also smooth routine maintenance.


Powder can be used on liquid and electrical fires so this would be best.

Maybe the cost might be a problem for the circuits so why not get the teams to have it built into the elaborate gantry systems they all put up inside the garage? The cost would be down to the f1 teams but im sure it would be a small expense compaired to the damage and injury that can be cased by a fire.


You would think that it would be standard practice for all the pit garages to have sprinkler systems fitted.


what kind of sprinkler system would you like? Powder, foam, water? Put the wrong kind on the wrong fire and it can make things worse! And then you’ve got the expense of installing and maintaining such a system. Maybe for F1 tracks that’s OK, but other tracks would have to charge the Clubs a lot more money possibly forcing some clubs away.

I think the best thing to do right now is see what the investigation turns up and see what can be done to improve the situation. Remember though that they already put a lot of time and effort to ensure they set up in the safest manor, and this sort of incident has not happened in F1 for longer then I can remember (though I am only 27).


I think your all missing 2 things here first the Williams KERS is different to everyone else in F1 Its a flywheel & not a electronic storage & second the main reason Williams are still in F1 & doing well again is the money injection they have from the sale of their KERS to other race teams & now I believe to AUDI & porches for their road cars.


Not true. They don’t use flywheel KERS system in F1.


How is the kers discharged and what do they do with the discharged energy?…


HRT come round with a bucket and collect it for the next race


We will see on the fia report, if not my mistake. Good journolism james. No one has answered my question,” When the turbo era returns, did the fia say that the kers will double its output”….


Glad to see no one is hurt after such a historic race for Williams. +1 on where we’re fire marshals at track ?.Still surprised why people blame KERS without knowing for sure what happened. Im sure teams will learn from this and improve safety in future. KERS / ERS for 2014. These technologies are here to stay and improve for the future as it should be for pinnacle of motor sport.


I thought when the turbo era returns, the fia said kers will double to 160 k/joules of power. If it is true then this will throw a different light on saftey.It does seem that this is the direction the f1 teams want to go, the current technology in f1 is the future technology for road cars, like it used to be….In recent times f1 seem to have lost its way, but now its back with a vengence….


No one has said KERS caused this fire yet, stop jumping the gun.

KERS is a suspect, yes, but so is anything that can cuase a spark, near fuel storage (whith air mixture esp), when there’s a party + TV crews hanging around the garage…

If the car had a KERS fault, it would probably have been noticed and discharged before anyone got close enough to touch it (or at least it should have); infact the KERS *SHOULD* be discharged before anyone other than the driver+pit crew are allowed near it.


Has any comment been made about the lack of response from the Track Fire Fighters.

The teams seemed to be left to their own means to battle he fire and had no proper equipment, breathing apparatus etc.


if it happened in britain our fire team would of been ready for that i thing the FIA should not got to spain again until they have look at why the fire service and also the polices took so long to get to the fire if it was not for the rest of the teams to help the willams it may of been more garges on fire


Whether or not that kers or fuel storage is an issue what I would like to know is that why with the best medical and rescue facilities in motor sport did it seem from the coverage and reports that I saw, take so long to fight a potentially life threatening fire take so long to fight.

When the fire truck arrived it contained fire extinguishers and no breathing rescue equipment.

Regards Ian Hinton from Worcester UK


Simply an observation, not an acquisition. Smoking is permitted in the paddock area from behind the pit garages onwards. Is this something that should be considered in a review of Paddock health and safety?


James, I feel you’ll be well placed to answer this:

What is the professional fire crew presence like at an F1 circuit?

I was surprised not to see a full blown fire tender (or more than one even) responding in any of the televised footage I’ve seen.


Being a volunteer firefighter i hope the fire wasn’t self caused. Forget to ground before emptying fuel, or forgot to disload KERS. Doubt insurance would pay in such cases.

And i really hope it isn’t a design failure in KERS. Probably flights with KERS would have to be reconsidered. Imagine this would have been KERS caused and it would have been a oversea race and the fire starting in the plane …


What a weekend for Williams. I’m so relieved that all the reports, so far, infucate that there’s no serious injury. I’m so impressed with Sir Frank; he’s so unflappable in the face of triumph and then disaster.

I would question the need to have so many non essential people in the garage at anytime. Surely that’s why teams have expensive hospitality units that they drag all over Europe?

prasanna madhavan

This incident show’s us once again F1 teams fight each other only on race track, when they are in crisis they come together and fight it out as a family. People from Force India, Caterham team, ferrari, Mcl, mercedes etc, all came together to put the fire off. great work people

Craig in Manila

Crazy stuff which really could’ve ended a lot worse than it did.

No doubt the stewards will want to look at it re considering a fine/penalty for unsafe handling of fuel ?


I asked this on Twitter of a few people but got no reply. Earlier in conversation with friends the question arose of whether or not the team will still have to take any grid drops for replacing Senna’s engine and gearbox which one assumes were damaged in the fire.


Force Majeur surely?


Ha! Indeed!


Don’t let McLaren know that a fire qualifies as force majeur, else they’ll be installing incendiary devices into Lewis’s car next time they run low on fuel.

As to the whole incident, I switched over TV channels from watching the Joey Barton incident to see the way members from all teams ran to the aid of the Williams garage. Two extremes of humanity, from disgusting violence to bravery and camaraderie in one click of the remote.


That’s what I hope/expect but I figured you’d have the expert knowledge to confirm that.



Now I’m no fireman, although I only got turned down for lack of 20/20 vision, I couldn’t help but notice on the bbc’s coverage it showed the back of the garage at the time of the fire.

It showed the teams spraying the fire with hoses that to

Me appeared to b water.

My point being, doesn’t water spread a fuel fire thus making the situation worse?


was wondering why they were spraying both extinguisher (presumably co2) and hosing it down with something from a pipe.. which can only be water. at the same time.

that said.. the pipes did pop in later in that film


Just because it’s from a pipe doesn’t make it water, and also just because it’s from a handheld, doesn’t make it CO2..

Being pit garages, the pipe, may well be foam, or a foam/oxy reducing mixute, as the most likely accelerant in a garage will be fuel. Having water on tap, in a garage, for fire extuinguishing, would be mental.

I still haven’t seen the video, but anyone picking up anything other than a foam extinguisher, in a pit fire would need their head examined.



(or more pages in bbc..)

i honestly can’t tell what’s in the pipe. some sort of liquid anyway.

but the guy spraying the extinguisher about a minute in is spraying what looks like gas (hence.. co2). purely from the way the stuff spreads upon ejection.

then again, i haven’t seen a foam extinguisher (or any extinguisher) in action for years.

main reason co2 is mentioned is because of kers/electric fire was mentioned. which of course.. we simply don’t know for certain yet.

Craig in Manila

Noticed the same thing and, yep, looked like water to me too. Made me cringe.

James Clayton

umm that’s only true of an electrical fire; or perhaps one where there is some liquid fat boiling away


James, also,

Will Williams be penalised if the have to change a gearbox due to fire damage or if the engine is somehow damaged be adjudged to have used one of their allocated engines?


The best reaction to this would be to avoid an overreaction. Regardless of steps taken to avoid such accidents, accidents, by their very nature, will happen. It says a lot about F1 safety standards that this is event is unprecedented.


Haven’t seen vision on this yet, but is there any damage to the race-cars?


I cannot put a message with my usual name, can you check that please?

Thank you.

Brisbane Bill

Yes, a few of us have suffered that problem. The only solution has been to use a different email address. The user name doesn’t seem to be the issue.


But I can now post with the same email address, so the problem is the user name?


Don’t Williams use a flywheel KERS system?

That wouldn’t have any battery packs so a spark while moving fuel would make more sense.


No, they never raced that. It’s battery based.


Interesting I didn’t know that.

I thought with their flywheel KERS being so well known it was used on the F1 cars too.


This seems to be exactly what it is; a freak accident. This isn’t a weekly occurrence in F1, and in all fairness, is a potential hazard when you are mixing potent race fuels and electricity (or for that matter, whatever was the cause of the fire.)

Was their a minor explosion or just a fire ? And was the smoke caused by the fuel or other elements catching fire. All in all, it was great to see the vast majority of people rushing into help, and more importantly, nobody being seriously injured. Reports of teams offering Williams supplies for Monaco goes to show the level of respect ‘enemies’ can have for one another.


KERS is risky in wet weather and in a accident, If the fire is found to be KERS related – the question should be asked is KERS too unstable to have in F1?


If I am not mistaken, since the first introduction of KERS, did the cars not have to have flashing hazard LED’s built into the chasis to indicate a KERS fault, for the benefit of the marshals, that might end up touching a live piece of car while moving accidents?

If that’s still the case, then I can’t imagine someone draining fuel, or even touching the car, if such a system was still required..

I’d probably discount the KERS cause for the minute, and trace it back from the accelerant. Sparks can come from a lot of places, and decanting fuel in enclosed spaces, can cause a fuel/air mixture that’s lethal if ANY electrical system sparks; i.e. generators, materials that can induce and store static, mobile phones, cameras, steel toecaps etc etc..

There was probably a lot of the above in the garage with the TV crews hanging about.

Leason for next race – pit garages, after race, are out of bounds for all non-essential crew.

Tom in adelaide

Transferring fuel can be very dangerous. If you are ever filling a can etc at a petrol station, always make sure it is placed on solid ground and not held up in the air.

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