The final member of the Williams team to have been injured in their dramatic post-race pit garage fire has returned home to England for further treatment, the team confirmed yesterday. The team admitted however that it faces an uphill battle to be ready for the Monaco Grand Prix next weekend after its garage equipment and IT infrastructure were badly damaged in Sunday's inferno.
Celebrations were ongoing in the Williams garage after their first win in almost eight years after the Spanish Grand Prix when a fire suddenly broke out in the fuel area of the garage. The fire was brought under control by members of the Williams, Force India and Caterham teams, 31 of whom were seen by doctors at the on-site medical centre. Most were treated for smoke inhalation
Seven of those team members were subsequently transferred to a number local hospitals for further treatment, all but one of whom were released by Monday. The seventh, a Williams team member who had suffered burns in the incident, left hospital to return home for further care on Tuesday. Williams said he was in "good spirits".
“I would like to reiterate our thanks to everyone in the paddock who helped the Williams team on Sunday to control the fire,” said chief operations engineer Mark Gillan yesterday. “There were a number of people who attended the circuit medical centre, mostly as the result of smoke inhalation.
“One team member remains in hospital having suffered burns, but he is in a stable condition and in good spirits and has returned to England today for further medical care.”
Team principal Frank Williams described as "overwhelming" the response from rival teams and paddock personnel to the fire. The 70-year-old had been in the garage addressing his team following their victory when the fire broke out.
“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,” said Frank Williams. “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.”
Gillan said an investigation into the cause of the fire was ongoing and that the full extent of the damage was still being assessed. He did however admit that serious damage had been done to vital IT equipment.
“Investigations into the actual cause of the fire are ongoing and are being performed in collaboration with the local authorities and the FIA,” Gillan continued. “The extent of the damage is still being accessed and will not become fully clear until both the cars and equipment have returned to the factory.
“What is clear is that our garage IT equipment and infrastructure have been badly damaged. On the back of a win we go to Monaco with high hopes but there is a prodigious amount of work to be done prior to the event to recover from the fire.”
Rivals McLaren have already offered their help to Williams in replacing any damaged equipment. The offer was made by McLaren's three ex-Williams engineers soon after the fire: technical director Paddy Lowe, director of design and development Neil Oatley and sporting director Sam Michael.