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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 May, 2003, 18:09 GMT 19:09 UK
Schumacher shrugs off fire risk
Fire breaks out on Michael Schumacher's car during a pit stop at the Austrian Grand Prix
You know you can survive for a little while - I didn't feel heavily concerned
Michael Schumacher
Michael Schumacher insists he was not worried by the pit-stop fuel fire that briefly interrupted his victory charge at the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday.

"I didn't think it was an extremely dangerous situation. It was just a little fire," said the German, who was uninjured by the blaze that broke out during his first stop at the A1-Ring.

The Ferrari driver added: "I don't know if you can call me a lucky man. I think I was unlucky to have the problem."

It was the first refuelling-related fire in Formula One since the Ligier of Pedro Diniz leaked fuel on his first lap after a pit stop during the 1996 Argentine Grand Prix.

And there has not been a fire in the pits since the 1995 Belgian race, when there was a flash fire during a pit stop by Jordan driver Eddie Irvine.

The worst fire in the modern era came at the 1994 German Grand Prix, when Jos Verstappen and several mechanics from his Benetton team were burned by flames which leapt to a height of more than 20ft (six metres).

Pedro Diniz suffered this fire after a refuelling problem during the 1996 Argentine Grand Prix
Diniz's Ligier caught fire in Argentina in 1996

Schumacher was Verstappen's Benetton team-mate at the time, but the reigning world champion said he never felt in similar danger during Sunday's race in Austria.

"Seeing the fire is not nice but I felt the guys reacted very well with the extinguishers," said Schumacher.

"You have the overalls, you know you can survive for a little while. I didn't feel heavily concerned, honestly.

"If I had seen fuel splashing around and the fire, then it would have been a different story, as we saw with Jos in 1994 in Hockenheim, but that didn't seem to be the circumstances."

Ferrari boss Jean Todt said problems with Rubens Barrichello's refuelling rig had led to the fire because the crew had use Schumacher's rig to refill the Brazilian's car.

"A small amount of fuel was still in the nozzle from the previous refuelling, which dripped onto the car and caught fire," said Todt.

Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn
It looked a little bit spectacular but it wasn't that critical
Ross Brawn
Ferrari technical director

Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn said the team would investigate what happened but added that he did not feel the incident would lead to a ban on refuelling.

"The counter argument is that if you have got a racing car with 230 litres of fuel [to last a race distance without refuelling] then that's more dangerous as well," he said.

"It's not a clear-cut argument and I don't think what we saw today is necessarily a crucial event in whether we carry on with refuelling or not."

A spokesman for the FIA, Formula One's governing body, added: "Preliminary checks suggest the fuel problems were caused by a very small accumulation of fuel in the car connector. The source of the ignition is not yet known."




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