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Saturday, 21 October, 2000, 13:18 GMT
Coulthard escapes refuelling fire
David Coulthard in the pits at the Malaysian Grand Prix
Coulthard and his mechanics had a narrow escape
David Coulthard has escaped what he admits could have been a "very dangerous" incident after a refuelling fire at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

The 29-year-old Scot praised the bravery of his mechanics after they helped prevent a potential repeat of one of the most horrific scenes ever witnessed in Formula One.

The quick-thinking pit crew put out a small fire near Coulthard's McLaren car after a refuelling pipe slipped off during qualifying for tomorrow's final race of the season in Malaysia.

The incident could have caused a repeat of the scenes when the Benetton of Jos Verstappen was engulfed in flames during a refuelling stop in Germany in 1994.

Jos Verstappen
Verstappen escaped a massive fire in 1994

The Dutchman escaped with minor facial burns, and although some of his mechanics were burned more badly, none of them had series injuries.

Coulthard's eye was splashed with petrol - he needed eye drops to take away the stinging - during the mishap just before his final qualifying run on the Sepang track in Kuala Lumpur.

"It could have been very dangerous," admitted Coulthard. "The fuel line slipped off the car and though I still had my visor up, my left eye was splashed which is why I used the eye drops.

"I was well protected, but the mechanics are there only in shorts and T-shirts.

Spectre

"There was a bit of a panic, but if they had not reacted so quickly there could have been a massive incident. It just shows the big risks they take with the job they do."

The spectre of a refuelling fire has haunted F1 ever since the Verstappen fire.

There have been a handful of incidents in races since, but none has resulted in serious injuries.

Refuelling was banned on safety grounds at the end of the 1983 season, but was reintroduced in 1994 to spice up the action.

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