F1 worker burnt in fire ‘in good spirits’

Oxford Mail: People cover their faces after a fire was extinguished in the Williams pit garage after the Spanish Grand Prix People cover their faces after a fire was extinguished in the Williams pit garage after the Spanish Grand Prix

A FORMULA One worker who suffered severe burns in a blaze just minutes after his team won the Spanish Grand Prix was last night said to be “in good spirits”.

The Oxfordshire-based man was left with 40 per cent burns in the fire in the Williams’ pit area on Sunday.

He was last night still in a Spanish hospital.

Three other staff from the Grove-based factory, who breathed in smoke, flew home yesterday after being released from hospital.

Williams spokesman James Francis said the team member who suffered burns was in a stable condition and would return to the UK in the next 48 hours for further medical treatment.

Mr Francis added: “His family are in constant communication and he is in good spirits.”

Following Pastor Maldonado’s victory in Barcelona, Williams’ team members were celebrating their first Grand Prix win since 2004 when the fire broke out.

Disaster struck as Williams founder Sir Frank Williams, who recently celebrated his 70th birthday, was delivering a victory speech.

Staff from other teams, including those from Force India and Caterham, helped bring the fire under control as black smoke billowed out of the garage’s fuel area.

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Motor sports governing body Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, Williams and the Spanish authorities are now investigating the cause of the blaze.

Sir Frank, Team Principal of the Williams team, said last night: “I was pleased to welcome back to the factory the majority of our team this morning.

“One of our people remains in Spain for further medical assistance, but we are all looking forward to his imminent return.

“Everyone at Williams F1 is extremely relieved that this event was contained as quickly as it was and the damage which occurred was, relatively speaking, limited in its nature.

“While the incident was unexpected and definitely most undesirable, it has demonstrated the genuine cohesiveness, camaraderie and spirit of co-operation that exists within the Formula One paddock. The astonishing response from the teams and other paddock personnel was immediate, unconditional and overwhelming.”

The FIA confirmed 31 team members were seen by circuit medical centre staff, the majority for breathing in smoke, with 24 later discharged. Seven were transferred to hospitals for treatment.

About 500 staff work for the Grove-based firm.

Mr Francis said: “Sir Frank didn’t breathe in any smoke and was taken out of the area very quickly.

“The incident was dealt with very quickly.”

Williams’ chief operations engineer Mark Gillan thanked Formula One rivals for helping tackle the fire.

Mr Gillan said: “We were overwhelmed by the support.”

The win at the Circuit de Catalunya was Williams’ first in 132 races, since Brazil in 2004.

Mr Gillan said he expected Williams to compete in the Monaco Grand Prix next week, despite losing equipment. He added: “Over the next couple of days we will be looking at where we are parts-wise.”

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