Fire storm: Why did it take safety crews so long to reach mechanic Betts and the others
20:09 GMT, 14 May 2012
The Williams mechanic most seriously injured in the fire which engulfed their garage after Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix remained in hospital here on Monday as serious questions were raised about the emergency services at the Circuit de Catalunya.
Martin Betts, 50, known in the paddock as Barney, was airlifted to hospital after suffering second degree burns to 15 per cent of his body, the worst affected areas being his hands and legs.
Drama: A Sky cameraman helps a Williams team member to safety as the fire breaks out
I've got you: Spanish Grand Prix winner Pastor Maldonado saves cousin Manuel, while Sir Frank Williams is wheeled away (below)
Bob Fearnley, Force India's deputy
team principal, was f iercely critical of the response at the circuit.
He had to fight past two track officials to enter the medical centre to
check on one of his employees who had rushed to the aid of Sir Frank
Williams, who is confined to a wheelchair 'Incompetent would be a very
polite way of saying what these people have done here,' Fearnley said.
'There's no training, no procedures. I
went down to see how my man was and I had to fight my way in. We need
to look seriously at the training of people at the circuits. I'm not
impressed at all.'
Those views were echoed by
experienced Formula One photographer James Moy. He had been taking
pictures of Pastor Maldonado's victory celebrations in the Williams
garage moments before the explosion in the fuel storage area.
Crisis: The pit-lane is engulfed in smoke as a Caterham team member lies on the ground (below)
'The FIA can confirm that a fire broke
out in the Williams garage after the conclusion of the Spanish Grand
'The flames were quickly brought
under control through the combined intervention of staff from Williams,
Caterham and Force India, supported by the circuit fire services.
'Thirty-one team members were seen by
Circuit Medical Centre staff and all have been released, with the
exception of seven who were transferred to a variety of local hospitals
where they are receiving treatment.
'The FIA is collaborating closely
with the Spanish authorities investigating this incident and will be
providing a further update as soon as more information becomes
'I reckon it probably took any circuit staff or firemen at least 12 minutes to get there,' said Moy.
'The only people there at that time
were mechanics, fighting a fire in shorts and T-shirts.' But for the
heroic actions of Williams's crew and those of their competitors the
consequences could have been far worse.
The BBC's technical analyst, Gary
Anderson, pointed out: 'There is a lot of fuel stored in the garages –
there could be 20 or 30 litres in the rig after the race and another
couple of hundred in the garage. Fuel safety probably needs to be looked
at a bit more closely.'
According to a Spanish news agency,
fire crews on duty inside the track perimeter left shortly after the
race and those who attended the blaze, which occurred around 90 minutes
after the chequered flag, came from another checkpoint close to the
Betts's condition was last night described by a hospital spokesperson as 'serious but stable'.
In shock: Bruno Senna looks on as a fire rips through the Williams garage
Change in mood: The incident happened shortly after the Williams team posed for a photo celebrating Maldonado's win
He will remain in the burns unit for 'at least another two days' before he can be moved to a hospital in England.
Fortunately, Betts has not suffered
respiratory problems despite the pit lane and paddock being smothered in
acrid black smoke. About 30 people were treated for smoke inhalation.
Williams confirmed that Betts is
expected to return home later this week and said: 'His family are in
constant communication and he is in good spirits.'
A further two Williams team members
who were transferred to medical facilities have been released after
recovering from smoke inhalation.
Four members of the team have also
left hospital, three after toxicology reports showed no issues and the
other after having his broken right thumb put in plaster ahead of an
operation on his return home.
Smoke: The pit-lane is filled with black smoke following the fire which began in the Williams garage after driver Pastor Maldonado won the team first grand prix in eight years
On fire: The incident is believed to have been caused by a Kers unit from Bruno Senna's car
The Force India worker has also been
released from hospital. Thanking their competitors for rushing to their
aid, Williams chief operations engineer Mark Gillan told Autosport
magazine: 'We were overwhelmed by the support. It was really impressive.
It was a serious issue and I am very grateful indeed.
'What happened after a great result
is very disappointing, but things were limited by the fast response of
our team and everyone who helped.'
Tackling the flames: Williams mechanics are joined by counterparts at Force India as they try to put out the fire
Inferno: The Williams garage was set alight following their victory in Spain
Williams added: 'While the incident
was unexpected and definitely most undesirable, it has demonst rated 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.'
Battle: A Williams spokesperson confirmed four personnel were injured
Mercedes mechanics help their Williams' colleagues put out the fire
Gillan admitted vital equipment had
been lost in the blaze. Bruno Senna's car was in the garage as it was
engulfed, but Gillan insisted the team would be ready to race in Monaco
in a fortnight.
He said: 'We had a lot of damage and
we have lost a lot of equipment, including IT equipment.We will have
everything we need to run operationally at Monaco, but we may be missing
a few extras.'
The McLaren team on Monday offered any necessary help to their rivals.
Shell: The remains of Senna's Williams following the blaze