WILLIAMS first Grand Prix victory since 2004 was overshadowed yesterday by a terrifying fire that destroyed their pit garage after the Spanish Grand Prix. Luckily, there were no serious injuries although 31 people had to be treated for smoke inhalation. Seven mechanics remained in hospital overnight, bringing down a dark spell on the first European race of the season.
The fire began in the back of the garage and spread feriously, with black smoke billowing out of the front, sending panic across the faces of team personnel and the worldwide media. It happened around 90 minutes after the race yesterday, with the team basking in the glory of Pastor Maldonado’s amazing win in Barcelona.
A Williams spokesperson said afterwards; “Four team personnel were injured in the incident and subsequently taken to the medical centre. Three are now receiving treatment at local hospitals for their injuries, while the fourth has been released. The team will monitor their condition and ensure they receive the best possible care. The team, the fire services and the police are working together to determine the root cause of the fire.”
The team have confirmed that the blaze started in the fuel area. Spanish police and the fire service are still trying to establish the cause today. This is possibly through an explosion from a KERS unit as fuel leaked out of Bruno Senna’s car that was being dismantled following his early exit from the race on lap 14. The fuel ignited and within seconds, the whole garage was alight. Maldonado’s car was still in parc ferme at the time, having its scruitneering check but Senna’s car was gutted.
At the time, the Williams team had just been having a group photo to celebrate Maldonado’s victory with Sir Frank Williams giving a speech to the team’s joyous mechanics. That joy turned to shock and although the fire was extinguished within 20 minutes, it is very fortunate that there wasn’t anything more serious that occured. Sir Frank was taken to safety quickly, as confirmed by Williams third driver, Valteri Bottas who told BBC Sport; “I was there when Frank Williams was giving his speech to everyone, I felt an explosion from behind, somewhere from the fuel area, and everyone ran out quickly.”
Sky Sports F1 pitlane reporter Ted Kravitz was at the scene when the fire started. Reporting live on the channel, he said “I saw the fire take hold and it just absolutely erupted. We were talking to Alex Wurz at the time and we were just having a look [into the garage] and suddenly I saw this wall of flame erupt from behind the Williams garage divider. It looked to be in the area where they store things like fuel and oil and gearboxes and computers and there will be an immense amount of damage to a lot of equipment.”
The Formula One fraternity came together with rapid help from the nearby Caterham, Toro Rosso, Force India and HRT teams to bring the blaze under control. Some Caterham and Force India members had to have treatment also for smoke inhalation afterwards. The Caterham garage also took damage in the inferno. Teams have already announced that they will give Williams some spare parts should it be required for the Monaco Grand Prix in a fortnight’s time.
In a statement on the team’s website, Caterham said; “Caterham F1 Team was involved in a fire that started in the Williams F1 Team’s garage after the end of the Spanish Grand Prix. All the team’s employees have been accounted for and four people have been taken to the circuit medical centre for examination; one with a minor hand injury and three with respiratory issues.”
This is the second time there has been a fire in the paddock this season, as Lotus hospitality suite was destroyed in Malaysia following a refrigrator fire, which lost a significant amount of Kimi Raikkonen’s race equipment for the weekend. There is likely to be a health and safety investigation into garage procedures and also, there will be question marks about the future of KERS in the sport, especially after an incident like this.
It is a sad and sorry end but fortunately not a tragic one to what had been an amazing result for the Williams Formula One team. F1 today can breath a sigh of relief at one of the biggest escapes of recent times.
A NEW star has been well and truly born in the world of Grand Prix racing tonight after Pastor Maldonado powered to a wonderful victory at the Spanish Grand Prix. It is the first time a Venezuelan driver has won a Grand Prix and sees the iconic Williams team return to the winners circle for the first time since Juan Pablo Montoya’s win in the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix. Second place for the home favourite Fernando Alonso sees him join world champion Sebastian Vettel level on 61 points at the top of the drivers championship.
Great management of the delicate Pirelli tyres and some tactical strategy were the keys to Maldonado’s maiden success in just his 24th Grand Prix. He also had to stay calm under pressure from a charged up Alonso and constant backmarker incidents on his way to the top step of the podium. In the process, 2012 has become a record season. We now have had five different winners from five races, in five separate teams and the last time this happened was back in 1983. Also the top seven in the points standings are now covered by a meagre 20 points.
Maldonado inherited pole position last night when Lewis Hamilton was sent to the back of the grid following McLaren’s costly error in not being able to give the FIA a litre of fuel for a sample after qualifying. However his lead disappeared when Alonso made the better start. The pair went wheel-to-wheel on the rundown to turn one but just like in 2011, Alonso led into the first bend of his home Grand Prix. A clash between Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez punctured a rear tyre on the Sauber and trashed the Mexican’s afternoon. Kimi Raikkonen moved into a third position he would not relinquish, whilst Grosjean’s delay enabled Nico Rosberg to sweep into fourth place.
Alonso kept a solid lead to make sure he wouldn’t be affected by DRS, although he never was able to leave Maldonado standing. Further back, there was trouble for Red Bull with both Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel stuck in heavy traffic and both pitted inside seven laps to get some clear air. Later, the nosecones on the two cars were changed after some issues with tyre rubber and debris ending up in the front assembly of each chassis. A late fightback from Vettel, despite a drive-through penalty for ignoring yellow flags saw him back to sixth. Webber missed out on points for the first time in 2012, finishing half a second outside the scorers in 11th place.
Sharp pitwork from Ferrari kept Alonso ahead in the first round of pitstops and with Raikkonen and Lotus not able to show their prestigious long run pace from Friday’s simulations, the fight for the win turned into a two way scrap. Out of contention though would be Maldonado’s team-mate, Bruno Senna. Senna was struggling behind Heikki Kovalainen’s Caterham in the early laps and was gambling on a two stop strategy, meaning he was mixing it with some of the frontrunners but on older rubber. On lap 12, Grosjean made a late dive up the inside into turn one and contact was made, removing a corner of the Lotus driver’s front endplate. One lap later, Michael Schumacher closed up quickly through the DRS zone but made a complete mess of his braking point. He misjudged Senna’s wherabouts and crashed into the rear of the Williams. Debris and tyre smoke flew into the sky as the two cars headed for the turn one gravel. Schumacher retired on the spot, his third DNF from five races and Senna had to park his car before getting back to the pits due to heavy rear wing damage. On the radio, Schumacher branded his rival an ‘idiot.’ The race stewards disagreed and handed a five place grid penalty to the German for the Monaco Grand Prix in two weeks time.
After his qualifying exclusion, Hamilton had to start from the back and did well to miss a wayward Perez in turn three on the first lap. He battled well with tyre management and had an entertaining dice with his old rival Felipe Massa. Hamilton eventually finished eighth whilst Jenson Button’s struggles continued and he could do no better than ninth. Tyre issues, understeer and a new brake supplier might well have accounted for his lack of speed throughout the last two days.
In the second round of pitstops, Williams pitted Maldonado earlier and got him out infront of Alonso, inheriting control of the race in the process. There was no change after the third round of pitstops either but Alonso cutdown the seven second lead to basically nothing and got close to overhauling Pastor twice without succeeding. A severe vibration with the rear of the Ferrari denied us a grandstand finish for the win, although Raikkonen suddenly closed up in the closing laps, having pitted for his third and final stop later than his rivals. The way was clear for Maldonado to take an emotional win, with all of Sir Frank Williams family here in attendance this weekend; the team principal having celebrated his 70th birthday yesterday. Sir Frank Williams told the BBC afterwards; “All the boys are delighted, and I’m quietly delighted, boy did we need that win as you can well imagine. Most of the season has been thanks to a fresh group of people but it’s been very well balanced. The aero guys have done their stuff, more than their stuff. The Renault engine is very competitive.”
Alonso and Raikkonen completed the podium placings. Raikkonen couldn’t hide his disappointed in the press conference, saying; “I’m a bit disappointed. I expect to be a bit stronger in the race, especially at the beginning. At end of the race, we were good but it was too late. We were too slow at the start which is why we couldn’t fight for the win. We showed we still have the speed. Maybe we took the wrong choice in the first stop.”
Grosjean came through to finish an excellent fourth and Kamui Kobayashi matched his best ever result with fifth for Sauber. Nico Rosberg fell away to seventh place at the chequered flag as his tyres hit ‘the cliff,’ in the last two laps. Nico Hulkenberg took the final point after a solid drive in the Force India. Scotland’s Paul di Resta missed out this time in 14th and a drive-through penalty for ignoring yellow flags added insult to another disappointing performance from Massa, well back in 15th.
After the race, celebrations were muted by a serious fire in the Williams garage. Luckily, there are no serious injuries although four mechanics had to be treated with smoke inhalation afterwards. (see separate story).
A sour and fiery note to end on but take nothing away from Pastor Maldonado, who fully deserves his time in the limelight. It is always nice to see a new winner and who knows, we might get another one when the sport visits the jewel in the crown that is Monte Carlo in two weeks time. Anything is possible in 2012 if this season’s first five races are anything to go by.
2012 FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO DE ESPANA SANTANDER RACE RESULT
|1||PASTOR MALDONADO||WILLIAMS RENAULT||66||1hr 39min 09secs|
|3||KIMI RAIKKONEN||LOTUS RENAULT||66||+3.8secs|
|4||ROMAIN GROSJEAN||LOTUS RENAULT||66||+14.7secs|
|5||KAMUI KOBAYASHI||SAUBER FERRARI||66||+1min 04.6secs|
|6||SEBASTIAN VETTEL||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||66||+1min 07.5secs|
|7||NICO ROSBERG||MERCEDES GP||66||+1min 17.9secs|
|8||LEWIS HAMILTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||66||+1min 18.1secs|
|9||JENSON BUTTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||66||+1min 25.2secs|
|10||NICO HULKENBERG||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||65||1 LAP|
|11||MARK WEBBER||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||65||1 LAP|
|12||JEAN-ERIC VERGNE||STR FERRARI||65||1 LAP|
|13||DANIEL RICCIARDO||STR FERRARI||65||1 LAP|
|14||PAUL DI RESTA||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||65||1 LAP|
|15||FELIPE MASSA||FERRARI||65||1 LAP|
|16||HEIKKI KOVALAINEN||CATERHAM RENAULT||65||1 LAP|
|17||VITALY PETROV||CATERHAM RENAULT||65||1 LAP|
|18||TIMO GLOCK||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||64||2 LAPS|
|19||PEDRO DE LA ROSA||HRT COSWORTH||63||3 LAPS|
|Retired||SERGIO PEREZ||SAUBER FERRARI||37||TRANSMISSION|
|Retired||CHARLES PIC||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||35||DRIVESHAFT|
|Retired||NARAIN KARTHIKEYAN||HRT COSWORTH||22||TECHINCAL|
|Retired||BRUNO SENNA||WILLIAMS RENAULT||12||DAMAGE FOLLOWING COLLISION WITH SCHUMACHER|
|Retired||MICHAEL SCHUMACHER||MERCEDES GP||12||COLLISION WITH SENNA|
|1||SEBASTIAN VETTEL (RED BULL)||61|
|2||FERNANDO ALONSO (FERRARI)||61|
|3||LEWIS HAMILTON (MCLAREN)||53|
|4||KIMI RAIKKONEN (LOTUS)||49|
|5||MARK WEBBER (RED BULL)||48|
|6||JENSON BUTTON (MCLAREN)||45|
|7||NICO ROSBERG (MERCEDES GP)||41|
|8||ROMAIN GROSJEAN (LOTUS)||35|
|9||PASTOR MALDONADO (WILLIAMS)||29|
|10||SERGIO PEREZ (SAUBER)||22|
|11||KAMUI KOBAYASHI (SAUBER)||19|
|12||PAUL DI RESTA (FORCE INDIA)||15|
|13||BRUNO SENNA (WILLIAMS)||14|
|14||JEAN-ERIC VERGNE (TORO ROSSO)||4|
|15||NICO HULKENBERG (FORCE INDIA)||3|
|16||DANIEL RICCIARDO (TORO ROSSO)||2|
|17||FELIPE MASSA (FERRARI)||2|
|18||MICHAEL SCHUMACHER (MERCEDES GP)||2|
|1||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||109|
|8||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||18|
|9||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO FERRARI||6|
LESS than 24 hours after Bruno Senna’s stirring drive to sixth place in the Malaysian Grand Prix, the restructuring of the Williams Formula One team continues. The chairman of Williams, Adam Parr has resigned. Reaction to this news has been seen as a surprise, many believing that Parr was the figurehead of the team to ultimately replace Sir Frank Williams.
Parr will leave his position on Friday, having been at the helm since 2010. He has been with the team in some form of capacity since 2006. This follows Sir Frank Williams decision to resign from the board last month and Sam Michael’s defection to McLaren at the back end of last season. In a statement on the team’s website, Sir Frank had nothing but thanks for Parr; “Over five years, Adam’s achievements have surpassed my expectations and I must thank him for his service. Not least for the decisive role he played in the technical changes made last year which are beginning to show through in the team’s improved competitiveness this season, and for leading this company to a successful IPO. Adam leaves us on good terms to pursue a better balance in his life for which I wish him and his family well. He has left us in good shape and I have every confidence that the Board and senior management team at Williams will continue to drive the business forward into a promising future.”
Senna’s sixth place result yesterday means that the team has already collected more points than it did in the the whole of 2011. Team-mate Pastor Maldonado crashed out from the same position in Australia last weekend. Following the promising signs of competitiveness Williams has shown in the first two races of 2012, this news shows no-one can rest on their laurels in F1. Nick Rose will take over next week, appointed as non-executive chairman. No reason has been given for Parr’s sudden departure.
CHANGING OF THE TIMES
WILLIAMS head to the Australian Grand Prix having not given anyone a lot of indication of where they stand in the 2012 field. In testing, they have set some cracking lap times and solid race simulation runs and other times, the car has barely featured. However, it won’t be hard to improve on last year’s disaster of a campaign.
It was Williams worst season since they became Williams Engineering in 1978. They only got into Q3 on three occasions, finished in the points just three times with ninth for Rubens Barrichello in Monaco being the best result and scored a meek total of five points. Their decline was a sad and sorry tale in 2011 for a team that has won nine constructors titles, 113 races and seven drivers championships. Despite this, there has been no success of any kind since Juan Pablo Montoya’s win in the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix and consequently, has led to loads of changes over the winter.
Technical director of almost a decade with the Grove team Sam Michael, has move onto a sporting role at McLaren. Although he will remain team principal, Sir Frank Williams has resigned from the board to spend more time with his family and promote commercial opportunities for the future and Patrick Head has left his role in the day-to-day involvement too. CEO Adam Parr and new technical director Mike Coughlan have a lot of responsibility and work to do to get them back to the glory days.
Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado keeps his seat for 2012 and although there are arguments about his high finance he brings, Maldonado did show some qualities last season, notably in Monaco. However, I don’t earmark him out as team leader and with just one point to his name in his debut campaign, must find more consistently and cut out some of the childish errors of judgement he made in 2011 such as driving into Lewis Hamilton in Q2 at Spa. Maldonado will be joined by Bruno Senna, who replaces the stalwart of Grand Prix racing, Rubens Barrichello. Not only that, but it brings the Senna name back to Williams, almost 18 years since his uncle Ayrton was killed driving for the team on that fateful weekend at Imola. Senna’s quality is unknown despite stints with Hispania and Renault in the last two years and maybe 2012 will show whether he is a future star or another Brazilian who is competing to bring up the numbers.
It is a new chapter for Williams and it has a fiery South American driver line-up. It is a long way back from the trials and tribulations of 2011 but we hope that they can rejoin the midfield party this season and on occasion, potentially cause upsets for the main powers of Formula One.
SAUBER continued the trend of confusing the formbook, as Kamui Kobayashi ended up fastest on the final day of testing this week in Barcelona. Although the Swiss team admitted afterwards that his fastest run was as a qualifying demo, it leaves many fans and experts still confused about a potential running order going into the Australia season opener.
Gary Anderson, the new Technical Analyst for BBC F1 said on their website; “This was one of the most confusing pre-season tests I can remember in terms of trying to work out what was going on. The big teams have been keeping their powder dry. They look like they’re confident enough to not need to go out there and see what the car can do on a big one-off lap.”
Anderson went on to predict that he still thinks the Red Bull is going to be the car to beat. Kobayashi set a 1.22.312 today, not only ending quickest, but setting the fastest lap time of the week. It was slightly better than Pastor Maldonado’s metoric effort yesterday, but the Venezuelan continued his purple patch by going second fastest. Paul di Resta completed a very surprising top three in the consistent Force India, as Jenson Button, Mark Webber and Felipe Massa spent another day gaining more mileage and not end up being too concerned about setting a fast time.
Six drivers did over 100 laps today, but Marussia never left the garage. Charles Pic was sidelined for the day after an early discovery of a damaged suspension component. The team will launch their 2012 model next week. Meantime, it seems to have emerged that HRT have some issues with their 2012 car. Their non-appearance this week indicates that the new car has failed the mandatory FIA crash test.
The final pre-season test will be held again at the Circuit de Catalunya, beginning next Thursday.
BARCELONA DAY 4 TESTING TIMES
1. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber Ferrari) 1.22.312 – 144 laps
2. Pastor Maldonado (Williams Renault) 1.22.561 – 134 laps
3. Paul di Resta (Force India Mercedes) 1.23.119 – 101 laps
4. Jenson Button (McLaren Mercedes) 1.23.200 – 115 laps
5. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 1.23.563 – 103 laps
6. Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing Renault) 1.23.774 – 85 laps
7. Jean-Eric Vergne (Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari) 1.23.792 – 92 laps
8. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes GP) 1.23.843 – 139 laps
9. Heikki Kovalainen (Caterham Renault) 1.26.968 – 70 laps
THE Williams swinging door of arrivals and departures continues in the build-up to the Grand Prix season. Their former driver, Alexander Wurz, is returning to the Grove based team as a driver mentor.
Wurz, who turned 37 last Wednesday will help out Bruno Senna and Pastor Maldonado in the 2012 campaign, as the team attempt to recover from a diabolical 2011 season, which saw them pick up a meagre five points, Williams worst season since they became Williams Engineering back in 1978. Alex was Williams test driver in 2006 and raced for the team in 2007 – finished third in that season’s Canadian Grand Prix. Wurz also raced at Benetton for four seasons in the late 90s and was an established test driver for McLaren between 2001-2005.
The Austrian will combine the role alongside part-time roles as a pundit for Austria television, a new deal on Toyota’s return to sportscars and an occasional position as a driver steward for the FIA. His addition to the backroom staff will surely give Williams a much needed push in the right direction as the teams head to Barcelona for the second pre-season test, which begins tomorrow.
AFTER months of speculation, Bruno Senna has been given the nod to drive for the Williams Formula One team in 2012. The 28-year old Brazilian will replace his compatriot Rubens Barrichello and partner fellow South American Pastor Maldonado in the team, that only mustered five points in a dismal 2011 season.
It means that Senna will be driving a Williams Renault car again, the exact combination that his legendary Uncle, Ayrton drove in their fatal partnership at the beginning of the 1994 season. In an interview with BBC Sport, Bruno’s delight was clear to see and the reaction seemed to be positive; “I feel very privileged Williams has selected me as one of their race drivers. The team has a great heritage and I hope I can help write a good chapter in their history.”
Senna made his Grand Prix debut for the underfunded Hispania team at the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix. Despite struggling in his debut season, Renault saw enough potential to hire him as a third driver last season. Nick Heidfeld’s failure to produce consistent results eventually saw him dumped for Senna, who assumed the Renault drive at last year’s Belgian Grand Prix. He qualified a sensational seventh at Spa, scored two points at Monza and gave Vitaly Petrov something to think about in a car that seemed to be going backwards with alarming rate by the season’s end. This news means that Barrichello’s extraordinary 19-year Formula One career appears to be over. Ever the gentleman, Barrichello congratulated his countryman on replacing him via Twitter.
Sir Frank Williams insisted that Senna will get time to establish himself at his new team, as the team hope to improve signficiantly on a diabolical 2011 campaign which ultimately led to the departures of Barrichello, technical director Sam Michael and director of engineering Patrick Head. Williams told the team’s website; “The circumstances of Bruno’s two seasons in Formula 1 have not given him an ideal opportunity to deliver consistently so it was essential that we spent as much time with him as possible to understand and evaluate him as a driver. We have done this both on track and in our simulator and he has proven quick, technically insightful and above all capable of learning and applying his learning quickly and consistently. Now we are looking forward to seeing that talent in our race car.”
There is now only one drive left on the 2012 grid, with a driver bringing lots of cash expected to join Pedro de la Rosa at Hispania. Narain Karthikeyan, who drove nine races last season is a strong candidate. This is despite Vitantonio Liuzzi having a contract for 2012. So does fellow Italian Jarno Trulli, although Petrov is believed to have a serious chance of replacing the veteran at the newly named Caterham team.
Bruno Senna now has to prove that Williams big gamble pays off. However, if he does, it will add another glorious chapter to the Senna name in Formula One.