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Flames, farce, fear as car burns

2013-10-07 04:07


BRIDGE OF SIGHS: Red Bull's Mark Webber, his car destroyed by fire, marches across the iconic wooden bridge at the Yeongam on his way back to his pit. Image: AFP

The crash was a gentle one but the results catastrophic for Red Bull as Mark Webber's car burned during the 2013 Korean F1 GP.

YEONGAM, South Korea - The appearance of a 4x4 fire truck on the track during the 2013 Korean F1 GP provided a bizarre moment of drama as it led the slowed-down field but officials played down any safety concerns.

The sport's governing body said race director Charlie Whiting ordered the vehicle to enter the track once the pace-car message was broadcast because he realised it could not be deployed before Red Bull's race leader Sebastian Vettel arrived on the scene.

TV viewers might have been bemused to see the workaday 4x4 trundling down the pits straight, hazard warning lights flashing, in place of the sleek silver Mercedes SLS AMG sports car usually poised in the pits lane.


Officials agreed it was unorthodox but an immediate response had been needed.

Australian Mark Webber's Red Bull had caught fire after being hit by Adrian Sutil's Force India moments after a re-start following an earlier safety car period and marshals were struggling to put out the blaze.

Whiting had asked local organisers to deploy the fire tender parked at Turn 3 but instead another at Turn 1 that was better equipped entered the track instead.

Vettel, who led from pole and went on to win the race, made light of the incident. "It looked like a BMW. I think it was a Hyundai or a Kia SUV ," he said. "You want the number plate? It was not (safety car driver) Bernd Maylander's, so it was not the safety car. I saw that."

Former racer Martin Brundle, now a race commentator for Britain's Sky Sports TV, told Reuters such an unorthodox intervention was rare in the modern era, with its specialised safety and medical cars.


"Many years ago I came across a breakdown truck going to pick up a crashed car, and various things over the years," he said of his own track experiences. "The closing speed (of approaching cars on Sunday) would have been something like 240km/h and you wouldn't have wanted to be going underneath it, that's for sure, but with the radio systems we've got, the drivers can be told about anything and everything."

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner saw another perspective.

"I was probably the only person who was relieved to see it because at least they had some fire extinguishers in it that were going to put the car out. It seemed to be on fire for an incredibly long time.

"Mark got out of the car uninjured, which was the main thing. It was just frustrating to see your car there becoming a bigger and bigger inferno in what seemed to take an age to get some fire extinguishers to it."

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