It turned out to be a dramatic afternoon for Minardi Cosworth, the Faenza team's Italian Grand Prix overshadowed by a brief but frightening pit fire which, mercifully, did not result in any serious injuries to team personnel. It did bring the race...
It turned out to be a dramatic afternoon for Minardi Cosworth, the Faenza team's Italian Grand Prix overshadowed by a brief but frightening pit fire which, mercifully, did not result in any serious injuries to team personnel. It did bring the race to a premature conclusion for Gianmaria Bruni, however, who experienced breathing difficulties after inhaling fumes during the pit stop and was unable to continue.
The race was rather less incident-packed for Zsolt Baumgartner, who gambled on starting the Grand Prix on dry tyres after the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza had been soaked by heavy rain on Sunday morning. It turned out to be a good decision, as the rapidly drying track surface soon allowed him to get up to speed and pull ahead of Bruni, who headed to the pits early to exchange the Bridgestone "shallow wet" tyres, on which he had started the race, for dry-weather slicks. After Bruni's retirement on lap 30, Baumgartner pressed on, claiming 15th place at the finish.
"I think we had not too bad a race. It was a bit tricky at the beginning, but I think we made the right choice to start with slick tyres. I lost a little time on the damp track in the first couple of laps, but then the grip came in and I was able to pick up the pace. I then had a good, really fair race with Gimmi. As the race wore on, I was struggling with the balance of the car a bit, but we were able to adjust the handling during the stint."
"I'm happy I was able to finish the Italian Grand Prix, like last year, and I'm now looking forward to China, where I hope we will be able to have a good race. Overall, I'm happy with today, but most of all, I'm relieved that no one was hurt in the fire this afternoon."
"I again made a very good start and had overtaken seven or eight cars after the first few corners. As the track was drying quickly, however, I made my first planned stop a little early, which put me behind Zsolt when I came out of the pits. I then closed the gap right up to him during my next stint and was expecting to overtake him after the second stop."
"Unfortunately, when the refuelling nozzle was placed on the car, it seems a small amount of petrol leaked out, and when it hit the hot parts of the car, there was instantly a fire. Fortunately, it was extinguished immediately, but some of the fire retardant got into my helmet and I couldn't breathe properly. I'm fine now, but it's really a pity for the guys, as the car was good and I think we could have a solid finish today."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal, Minardi Cosworth:
"Whoever thinks F1 is boring wasn't around the Minardi garage this afternoon when Gimmi's car erupted into flames shortly before leaving the pits after his second stop. The mechanics did a fantastic job to extinguish the flames immediately, but unfortunately, Gimmi inhaled some of the fumes. Zsolt, on the other hand, drove a solid race to record yet another well-deserved finish at this, one of Minardi's 'home' GPs."
"I cannot thank the guys enough for their thoroughly professional behaviour and quick reactions that undoubtedly helped to avert what could have been a major incident this afternoon. As for the fire itself, the team is still investigating the cause of the fuel leak in order to understand exactly what happened."
Chassis: PS04B/03 (No.21)
Best lap: 1 min 26.356 secs
Chassis: PS04B/02 (No.20)
Best lap: 1 min 26.371 secs