As the Williams team celebrated its victory in the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, a fire broke out in its garage, injuring 16 people. Pastor Maldonado, the victor of the race, was forced to carry his cousin out of the blaze.
There are conflicting reports on the total number of injured in the fire, though it is known that there were no casualties. A Williams team statement issued shortly after the incident said four staff members were taken to hospital, with one of them subsequently released. The Caterham team, which owns a garage next to the Williams paddock, stated that four of its employees had been hospitalized – one with a hand injury, and three with respiratory problems. The Force India team reported that one of its staff members was also retained for observation.
The Catalan regional government, however, reports that sixteen people were taken to hospital, most of them to be treated for smoke inhalation. One person suffered severe burns and was airlifted to hospital.
FIA, the motorsport’s ruling body, said 31 team members were seen by the medical circuit center and that seven of them were subsequently hospitalized.
The fire was apparently caused by an electric circuit fault in racer Bruno Senna’s car, which he crashed during the race. The fire spread quickly with plumes of black smoke emerging onto the circuit.
The blaze broke out as Sir Frank Williams was giving a celebratory speech to mark Maldonado’s victory. The wheelchair-bound manager was then hastily evacuated. Maldonado, fresh from completing the winning lap, gave his cousin Manuel a piggy back out of the burning building.
After the fire was extinguished, Force India’s deputy team principal Bob Fernley criticized the firefighters' slowness.
“It's unbelievable,” Fernley told Brazilian website Tazio Autosport. “My guy got there before the official firefighters.”
The incident charred a festive mood that followed Maldonado’s victory, the Williams team’s first triumph since its 2004 victory in the Brazilian Grand Prix.
The race that preceded the blaze was also quite riveting. Maldonado started on pole position but was immediately overtaken by Fernando Alonso, a Spanish driver for the Ferrari team. However, he fell back after making a poorly-timed pit stop, allowing Maldonado to come in first, followed by Kimi Raikonen of the Lotus team.
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