Nick Heidfeld's Renault on fire

Fan video gives new view of Heidfeld’s Renault fire

2011 Hungarian Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by

This video shot by a fan at the Hungaroring gives a close-up view of the fire which engulfed Nick Heidfeld’s Renault during the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Heidfeld came out of the pits with the left-hand side of his car already on fire, and jumped clear of the car as the flames grew.

Marshals set about the car with fire extinguishers but were showered with debris when part of the car appeared to explode.

Thanks to TommyB89 for the tip.

2011 Hungarian Grand Prix

Browse all 2011 Hungarian Grand Prix articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

99 comments on “Fan video gives new view of Heidfeld’s Renault fire”

  1. surprised that guys leg didn’t fly off!

    1. I know! I hope he isn’t hurt too bad, looks like he got cracked right in the shin. Sad to see Nick have to go through that twice this year. I imagine it’s pretty damn scary.

      1. Ah! I didn’t see it exploded right into the marshal!

    2. 1 part of me thought that was really dangerous and needed a safety car, the other part really enjoyed it.

    3. Don’t F1 cars have a fire extinguisher behind the seat? I think this is what the explosion was, and hence the added cloud after it/

      1. The compressed air bottle which feeds the valve system exploded according to Martin Brundle

    4. streetfightingman
      1st August 2011, 9:26

      It’s one of the worst freaking calls ever to not get the SC out there!! THIS is what it’s for! Not coasting around because you can’t get the drivers visors wet.

      1. What a joke, those marshals are risking their lives to put Nick’s car out! How on earth was a safety car not called!??? The speed at which the cars pass them, even coming out of the pits. It seems these days that a safety car is out on track when it shouldn’t be, and not on track when it should!

    5. Just watched Ted Kravtiz’s GP from the pitlane and he said that before the incident the exhausts were disintegrating, so would have failed anyway. The elongated pit-stop just made the inevitable happen quicker.

  2. Wow! not just the explosions but seeing the other cars whizz by at 150mph. Its a dangerous job but someone has to get showered with carbon fibre….

    1. Especially when one driver tries overtaking right opposite the stricken car…

    2. That got me wondering about safety as well. Not to mention they pulled the car into the pits backwards just when Vettel was leaving after his pitstop.

  3. Looked quite like the explosion coincided with the marshal’s foam hitting the car; I assume of course the foam is rated for the 60KW KERS components?

    Whatever the outcome, 2 fires in one season from the only car running FFE; and caused apparently by nothing more than a slightly long pit stop (although terminal engine failure from another cause can’t be ruled out). Suspect Renault have some questions to answer before Spa.

    1. The KERS wouldn’t cause an explosion. Most likely it was caused by the foam cooling the radiator quickly, or maybe the water resevoir in the radiator exploded due to the heat of the fire, with the extinguishers just providing the energy to break the walls of the resevoir. That would also explain the steam which came out. High-pressure heated water is a very dangerous thing. I think I heard that the exhausts were failing already, and the pitstop just made them overheat further, causing a catastrophic failure. When I saw it I said immediatly “exhaust failure.” The explosion was a side-effect of the fire.
      I also believe that the two fires were caused by two different causes- the Barcelona one was caused by I think some glue of some sort menting onto something hot. Maybe it was oil. The cause of this is explained above ;D

      1. Battery powered RC aircraft use the same batt tech as F1, Lithium-Ion. These things absolutly start fire, they expand with heat, and if the external packaging cannot restrain the swelling, they do explode.

        Thats said, Im sure there are plenty of things on an F1 car that can go BOOM.

  4. Well, if Heidfeld gets the boot from Renault before the next race, at least he can say he went out with a bang :P

    1. Ho! Ho! Ho!

  5. Oh, and (with hindsight, but still) if ever there was a case for closing a pit lane while the race was still being run…

    1. This was my second thought of the situation.

    2. My thoughts exactly!

      They didn’t need a safety car, but they definitely should have closed the pit lane.

      I feel like closing the pit lane is a strategy only North American series use though.

      1. They introduced a rule this year allowing the race director to close the pit lane if he needs to:

        The 2011 F1 rules changes at-a-glance

  6. he was lucky not to lose his leg. perhaps new methods are needed in these situations.

    also, someone answer me this. a bit of rain in canada and we start under SC. yet a car on fire, a situation that frankly is in the lap of the gods as to what will or wont happen doesnt warrant one? lets also take into account where on the circuit it was : exit of pit lane and also braking zone for turn 1.

    the sight of vettel nearly sliding into the an f1 car being towed the wrong way down the pit lane was not good. Almost as bad the comedy yet near tragedy of marshals falling over in front of a car in canada.

    marshals do amazing jobs, with the little they are given. But in this occasion race control handled it badly and let them down IMO

    1. I think one problem would be they’d need to also close the pitlane until they got the fire out.

      But seeing this shows they need to rethink when to bring out the SC – as you say, why out in Canada for so long, and not at all out here?

    2. perhaps their view was that if they put a safety car out, everyone would pile into the pits, which would only really have made the situation worse.

      1. Also, getting the SC out in the first place may have been an issue – remember it has to pass the very same incident. A red flag might have been appropriate but the authorities are loath to do that these days.

  7. he was lucky not to lose his leg. perhaps new methods are needed in these situations.

    also, someone answer me this. a bit of rain in canada and we start under SC. yet a car on fire, a situation that frankly is in the lap of the gods as to what will or wont happen doesnt warrant one? lets also take into account where on the circuit it was : exit of pit lane and also braking zone for turn 1.

    the sight of vettel nearly sliding into the an f1 car being towed the wrong way down the pit lane was not good. Almost as bad the comedy yet near tragedy of marshals falling over in front of a car in canada

    marshals do amazing jobs, with the little they are given. But in this occasion race control handled it badly and let them down IMO

  8. What a explosive…I never see such thing since I started to watch F1.

  9. This video really shows how fast the cars pass here! It looks much slower on TV. This really should have been a safety car, or at least closing of the pit lane!

    1. Yeah, some pit exits looked quite dangerous.

  10. What was that explosion ?? The KERS battery ???

    1. It was the bodywork. The air in the sidepod – remember, hot exhaust is pumped through it – was rapidly heated by the fire, and then rapidly cooled by the fire extinguishers. The bodywork was unable to cope with the rapid changes in heat, and so released all the pressure that was building up in the sidepod.

      1. or heat exchanger.

      2. bernification
        1st August 2011, 10:13

        It would have imploded, not exploded in your scenario- the contracting gases would have reduced in pressure, creating a rarefaction, NOT releasing pressure outwards.

      3. Or maybe it was the internal fire-extinguisher blowing up, the fire didn’t get worse after, just the cloud, it seemed.

      4. why would the sidepod be a sealed pressure vessel? you have a hot exhaust running through it so you’d want to cool it as much as possible. sealing it would make absolutely no sense.

        i don’t know what exploded, but there looked to be about 5-10 bar of pressure being released *if* it were something pressurised that let go. for this amount of pressure to be contained by a side pod that has an exhaust going in and out of it and has to be attached to the rest of the car. not happening. sorry.

        1. bernification
          1st August 2011, 12:04

          5-10 bar is a lot of pressure- my road bike takes 7 bar- 125 psi. When they pop, christ, I nearly fly home!
          If you’re running exhaust gases through it, it can not be sealed, can it.

          1. i’ve never suggested it is sealed. in fact, quite the opposite!
            my guess of 5-10 bar is based on when i’ve seen low pressure diving regulator hoses going bang. they sit at about 11-13 bar. obviously, the volume of whatever went bang has a bearing on what we see, as it blew from an enclosed space.

      5. With the benefit of hindsight – it was the compressed air bottle for the pneumatic valve system that exploded caused by the heat of the fire caused by, er, well, the exhaust system speculatively speaking.

    2. The BBC website reports it was the engine’s air bottle that exploded.

      1. guess they’ve edited the page as i can’t see any mention of an air bottle. if it was an air bottle, anyone know what it’s used for?

  11. also worth noting vettel narrowly avoided the car when it was being dragged back into the pits, then almost spun at the exit. that would have been front page news for sure.

    in my expert opinion ;) the pit exit should have been a red light until the truck and wreckage were clear.

    1. in my expert opinion ;) the pit exit should have been a red light until the truck and wreckage were clear.

      at the very least.

      whilst i don’t like seeing the safety car, this was a clear situation that deserved it as the marshals were exposed to un-necessary additional risk.

  12. I think Heidfeld’s days at Renault are numbered. Even before the car lit up, he was having another bad race. I don’t think he’ll be around for the final away leg (much less 2012), especially if Petrov finishes ahead of him in Belgium ans Italy.

    1. Actually NH destroyed VP this year in the Renault. Not in the quali, but in the races where points are earned. :)
      Btw, the driver standings speak for themself.
      Hence I’d say that the Russian should be the one to go.

      1. “Destroyed” by 2 points, compared to the 82 points that Kubica was destroying (annihilating, ripping apart, chewing up and spitting out) Petrov by after 11 rounds last year.

        Granted Petrov has improved a lot since then, but I just don’t see them keeping Heidfeld once Kubica comes back.

        1. Yes, we all marvel at the ability of an experienced driver to utterly dominate a rookie to Formula 1 and one with far less experience in single-seater racing.

          Perhaps if Kubica had given Petrov a bit more advice, rather than being quiet as the grave, Petrov would have done better.

          1. “Advice” isn’t the point- the points are that Kubica’s 2010 performances were much more impressive than Heidfeld’s 2011 performances, and that Heidfeld is not going to be retained if Kubica is given the all-clear to compete again.

            Even Eric Boullier isn’t delighted with Heidfeld at the moment. Do you see them keeping Heidfeld for long?

          2. If Heidfeld got dropped, Renault would probably bring in Senna or Grosjean. But I think with the testing ban, it may not be the best move.

            Heidfeld hasn’t done well in the last two races, but when he has been on the pace, he has finished in the points. With the car the way it is at the moment, Renault may be lucky to get points if they keep up their current form.

      2. Actually NH destroyed VP this year in the Renault. Not in the quali, but in the races where points are earned.

        And yet, despite finishing in front of Petrov more often than Petrov finished ahead of him, Heidfeld is still only two points in front of the Russian driver. That’s hardly a destruction.

        1. Indeed. And Renault management agrees with you, I think. Already, there are rumors of Heidfeld talking to BMW to be their lead DTM driver next year.

          And I have no idea who Nick is posing at towards the end of that vid. :D

  13. I was abosulutly appalled at a bit of footage I saw just after this, when they were wheeling the car back into the pits (With men pushing on both sides of the car). One of the guys leaving the slippery pit lane had to take evasive actions, and slid.

    That could have been bad.

    I noticed that they were so reluctant to use the safety car. But I’m going to be honest, It’s more fun without it. But it’s not safe. I hope Charlie puts safety first, and the fans demands second.

    1. One of the guys leaving the slippery pit lane had to take evasive actions, and slid.

      It was Vettel. He probably wasn’t expecting to see them, and from the looks of things, he hit a slick patch.

      1. Don’t forget guys, from the pictures we ( most of us ! ) saw on TV, we only had a very long range shot from about 3/400 metres away down at turn one and the foreshortening effect at that range is huge.

        Though I agree that closing the pit lane while the fire was dealt with was probably what should have happened, I’m pretty sure that Vettel and the other drivers exiting the pits had a clear view of what was going on and had more than enough room to avoid the wreckage as it was towed back.

        And it’s also likely that the team leaders on the pit wall could see exactly what was going on and radioed the drivers
        to take avoiding action.

        But it was still a damn scary incident and Renault seem to have some serious technical issues to deal with.

  14. Why isn’t this front exhaust system not BANNED yet!?

    It seems that I’m one of the very few people that expressed concern about the safety of the system. This is the second time that it fails and neither the media, FIA, FOTA etc have said something.

    If it was a Ferrari car today that went up in flames endangering others, I’m sure Ferrari’s rivals, the BBC, RTL etc would have complained and even asked to ban the system.

    Does nobody think that F1 drivers’, fans’ & marshals’ safety should come in first place?

    1. Some of these fires from the Lotus-Renault have been pretty bad, it’ll be interesting to see what the FIA say or do about it.

    2. Why isn’t this front exhaust system not BANNED yet!?

      Because it’s obviously not a danger. The car exploded because the air in the sidepod was rapidly heated and then cooled. The pressure built up, and the air exploded outward. Even if Renault was not using the fronal exhaust system, the same thing would have happened because the air would have been heated by the flames.

      1. The Last Pope
        1st August 2011, 5:12

        Yes obviously FIRE isn’t dangerous at all. FIRE has never harmed anybody ever. If you are lucky and your car catches FIRE make sure you are as close as posible to the flames.

        1. Yes obviously FIRE isn’t dangerous at all. FIRE has never harmed anybody ever. If you are lucky and your car catches FIRE make sure you are as close as posible to the flames.

          Once again, you rush in to criticise what I said without actually reading anything else. Go back to Commendatore’s original comment. He’s directly implying that the Renault exhaust system is dangerous. However, it was not the exhaust system that caught on fire, which is the issue that I was addressing.

          1. The Renault exhaust system is clearly dangerous, you can tell, because at least two or three times per year, it tries to set fire to the driver, in the business, that kind of behavior is usually regarded as being “dangerous”.

            It was the exhaust pipe which disintegrated. The one on the other side was ready to let go too.
            The explosion was the pneumatic air-supply, trying it’s very best to remove a volunteer marshall’s leg, that pressurized system is situated beside a highly flammable KERS battery package, and a very highly flammable fuel-cell.

            If into this compact and tightly packaged environment, you recklessly decide to route fragile and highly stressed exhausts, containing gases hotter than 800degreesC, and aim this ignition source right at where the human occupant sits … then over a season the utterly inevitable outcomes tends to write itself.

            It is a failed aerodynamic experiment, Genii-Renault should bolt some Red Bull straight pipes out the back and call it quits before someone gets seriously injured here.

          2. @ Gold Leaf
            Hallelujah! I couldn’t have put it better myself. Well, at least someone got the point I was making i.e. the danger of the Renault system.

          3. Prisoner Monkeys slowly retreats back to his den in defeat…..

            ….MOM, THE MEATLOAF!!!!!!!!

      2. Wasn’t it just the radiator inside the sidepod that blew up? It’s under constant high pressure so the pipes could easily blow up after being quickly heated by this fire, and created this ball of steam and smoke right after the explosion.

        *puts CSI sunglasses on*

      3. I find this unlikely. When air cools down, it shrinks in volume and therefore it then has no reason to explode. I’d guess that it was some part of machinery that is normally under pressure (pipes with coolant?) and this pressure was further increased by the heat from fire, getting past the breaking point of the container material (pipe?), likely this had been helped by this material being quickly cooled down, becoming fragile.

        Anyway, I expect Renault lets us know soon and we will see how wrong we all were :-).

      4. The sidepods are not sealed they are open at both the front and rear so there is no way the pressure could build up. The explosion was clearly something in the car exploding, either the radiator, fire extinguisher etc. I do however agree that the car would possibly have exploded the same no matter what caused the fire, but it is now quite clear that the front exhausts are much more of a fire risk than they ought to be.

    3. Of course, Renault is experimenting with going to rear exhausts. I’d think maybe over those four weeks of break, Whiting will go talk with them to move that plan along a bit as there are clearly some issues with the safety of the currently implemented FEE. Then they won’t need to ban it for this year, and next year it is already effectively banned.

    4. Because the last time anyone tried banning anything mid-season in F1, they made such a meal of it that the move had to be reversed. Despite the obvious safety issue, this is something that probably cannot be sorted until the end of the year :(

  15. The worst part was when they towed back the car they did in a unsafe way which nearly caught out Vettel & if he didn’t take avoiding action there could have been a very nasty accident.

    1. I am surprised that they didn’t just put out the safety car.

      1. Yeah I was surprised too.

  16. That was scary. The marshalls wer right on the pit exit where everyone was sliding when coming out. A bad slide and one marshall would be gone.
    I think they should have called the safety car.
    It looks like they filled the air intake and it just exploded as it was turned into steam….I do not think they were very well trained.
    Great video!

  17. UKfanatic (@)
    1st August 2011, 3:18

    Today the Fia looked like nascar, they made everything possible to not ruin the race, im not talking only about the small burst of carbon. Heidfeld car was on a bad position and when marshall tried to retrieve the car they went straight into the pits which was at the moment open of course!

    1. NASCAR goes to “caution” or safety car at the slightest instant of trouble or minor bit of track debris. Understandable, due to oval track racing, but even NASCAR fans have started to suggest that it is being done deliberately to manufacture closer racing.

      Hell, don’t they have a mandatory “caution” at the halfway mark in the race?

      FIA was nothing like NASCAR today.

      1. I believe some of the special non-championship races they hold mid-season at Daytona have mandatory cautions, yes.

  18. Plucky fellow there, just went back along the rear wing and continued dousing the flames back there!

    1. Clearly weary of standing in front of the sidepod after that, but still standing on the edge of the pit exit, brave guy, I hope he gets a visit and thanks from Renault.

  19. I wonder how long it will be before this video gets removed by FOM for copyright violation? Bernie/Sky et all are killing F1…

    1. Some F1 fans have been able to successfully challenge takedown orders made against videos they shot themselves:

      F1 fan beats FOM over right to upload video from Grand Prix weekends

  20. Race director should have closed the pit lane until the car is retrieved, this was a very dangerous situation in which they reacted poorly.

  21. On a side note: I love the raw sound in that vid! Of course the cars flying by and accelerating, but also the ‘thud’ of the explosion.

  22. There is too much safety in F1 lately, this was supercool and added to the excitement of a great race weekend

    1. Are you being serious?

      I hope not.

  23. Renaults excuse for the fire is stupid. The car was sitting on high revs for too long in the pits. Why would a driver of Heidfeld’s experience sit on the rev limiter in the pits….why would any driver in fact?? as DC and Brundle and EJ said in the forum you would have heard it!! Its renaults pathetic excuse to continue blaming Nick for their poor performance. I doubt Kubica would have tolerated the backwards step in performance as well as cars blowing up in his face.

    Yes Petrov is only 2 points behind Nick but it was Nick that got Renault into 4th in the championship and renault that have lost it. Petrov and Heidfeld can do very little with a car that seems to want to battle Torro Rosso

    1. STR, Williams and the stewards rather!

    2. The car shouldn’t have overheated in a few seconds of pit lane time, especially since using high revs in the stop itself would have prevented the wheels from being removed (as Felipe Massa found out a couple of races back).

  24. Absolutely stupid not calling the safety car out, and if anything went wrong they were going to be personally criminally liable. The law of averages say it will happen if they keep making decisions like that.

  25. Where do the FIA stand on drivers crossing the white pitlane line if there is a hazard within the white line zone?

    It would have appeared much safer if the drivers didn’t have to contend with the white line rule in a situation like this. After all they wouldn’t have had to cross the white line by much.

  26. The safety car would have probably collided with the firey wreck of the Renault…

  27. Situations like this really…grind my gears (language moderated). Charlie in the clouds at race control deploys safety cars at the drop of a pin, but in this case here supposedly a few marshalls are expendable.

    Ridiculous.

  28. Crikey, that’s quite an explosion.

    Probably not the best way to clear up the incident, especially rolling it backwards into the pit-lane.

    1. Yeah that was pretty bad. They almost got in the way of Vettel.

  29. Have you seen this http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/formula_one/14359169.stm . He says the car wasn’t designed to stop for so long and funny conclusion – this is the true motivation for a Renault driver don’t slow down or you gonna burn :)

  30. Have you seen this http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/formula_one/14359169.stm – Wheelnut issue lead to fire – Boullier. He says the car wasn’t designed to stop for so long and funny conclusion – this is the true motivation for a Renault driver don’t slow down or you gonna burn :)

  31. I think in this causation analysis, people are missing that the explosion in front of the marshals was not the first. As Speed showed it, the whole left side of the car blew out in a shower of sparks long before it came to a stop. 1000 degree heat blasting on everything from wire harnesses, to KERS batters to pneumatic system to hydraulic lines will explain any secondary explosions you like.

    When Newey’s cars had some curious falures of suspesion and other things, the FIA were to top of those RBs with a microscope. You have a car running a system that is inherently more dangerous than the norm, we have see it literally explode in competition. The FIA need to have a proper third-party or technical evaluation of the system or it needs to go.

    Renault is an embarassment this year. They come with this massively radical car and take a giant step backwards. Boullier is positioning himself to pin it on Heidfeld, that should not happen. Heidfeld cannot use his experience to improve a car when the “upgrades” to be validated are crap. And who else is going to do that work? Petrov? Should Heidfeld be beating down Petrov in raw pace? No one ever said Petrov is slow, he just lacked discipline, and was slower than Kubica. And people forget that Kubica was absolutely not consistently quicker than Heidfeld in the same car at BMW.

    Boullier was brought in because if his supposed black belt management skills, which was to overcome his lack of experience in the sport. But this is not running the yogurt division of Unilever or being in charge of steering wheels for some Renault plant. He needs to go do something for which he is prepared, and they need to bring in an F1 guy. Sam Michael would be fine.

    1. Hi DaveW,
      You wrote: “And people forget that Kubica was absolutely not consistently quicker than Heidfeld in the same car at BMW.”

      Kubica once said, that in BMW the driver had very little to say. There was German discipline in that team, they had development program, and they stick to it. Kubica had suggestions about the car but the team didn’t listen to him. Maybe that’s why he was absolutely not consistently quicker than Heidfeld. Don’t forget, that Kubica was on learning curve in that time in comparision to Heidfeld. Don’t forget either that Heidfeld had some time of the F1 car. I’d like to see Kubica in Brasil in the car, but again Kubica will be learning the new tires and the new car, but if he will be quicker then Petrov straight away then we will have the prove :). I’m not defending Boullier but I didn’t had an impression that he is blaming Heidfeld for team situation. I don’t think that we should point at one person either. For You Boullier is the problem, but I think it is a little exaggeration. I think that main problem is the front gas blowing problem or rather lack of big development in that area. The car was in front in first races.

  32. themagicofspeed (@)
    1st August 2011, 20:06

    are marshalls not provided with flameproof overalls, which may explain why the marshall present when the sidepod exploded didnt have his leg wiped out?

  33. This makes great sense to anyone!!

Comments are closed.