Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Red Bull Ring, 2022

Sainz concerned reaction to his engine fire was “a bit slow”

2022 Austrian Grand Prix

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Carlos Sainz Jnr says the marshalling reaction to his engine fire during Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix needed to be faster.

The Ferrari driver came to a stop on a slope near an access point in the run-off area at turn four. A marshal ran out to place a chock behind his front-right wheel to stop the car rolling backwards, but the car began to move as he tried to put it into position.

While flames began to take hold at the back of the car, Sainz was torn between escaping the F1-75 and preventing it rolling back towards the circuit.

“It was not an ideal and an uneasy situation for sure because I saw in my mirrors that the car was catching fire, but at the same time I was pressing the brake,” he told RaceFans and other media after the race.

“As soon as I tried to jump out, I saw that the car was rolling backwards and I didn’t want to leave the car completely free, out of control, rolling backwards while jumping out. I was calling the marshals to come and help me to put something on the tyres to stop the car rolling down. But I think the whole process was a bit slow.”

Eventually Sainz jumped clear of the car, which came to a stop next to a barrier, and the marshals doused the flames.

“At some point there was so much fire that I had to really get a move on and jump out independently. I think it was just at the time that the first marshal arrived and stopped the car.”

Sainz said the incident is “definitely something we need to look” to consider “what we could have done a bit faster because it was not the easiest situation to be in.”

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Pictures: Sainz’s engine fire

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2022 Austrian Grand Prix

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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...

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35 comments on “Sainz concerned reaction to his engine fire was “a bit slow””

  1. One of the commentary team said something like “thanks to the quick reactions of the marshals” and I was thinking that was anything but quick.
    Think Sainz’ best action would have been to position the tyres so it rolled into the barriers and leg it from the car though.

    1. he did that, eventually. if you look at the video, the car end up touching the barrier.

    2. Marshalls have be slow to react for a while now, its only an instance like this that highlights it. It’s the way F1 is now. They’re not allowed to enter without permission from someone who at best has to find them on a camera first. Ultimate micro managing.
      I get that there’s safety, but the irony is that they are there for safety! Brundle was saying the car was in the danger zone. It wasn’t really. It was on the tarmac outside the gravel trap and in an area that should have been protected by double waved yellows, and disabled DRS!

      1. Agreed completely. F1 has become so risk averse. Every little incident and it’s a VSC, or a full safety car. It’s like they don’t trust the drivers to follow the rules…funny that

        1. I was positively surprised there wasnt a red flag immediately. Liberty loves these and FIA knows.

  2. I thought the marshal was there almost immediately, but the car wasn’t stationary. Sainz could have turned the wheel so the car rolled back into the barrior instead of expecting it to sit parallel with those barriors. An unusal situation which you imagined the marshalls should have been prepared for. Those Hilly inclines aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

    As those cars don’t have handbreaks and everything these days is via wire, what happens when the electronics gives out, would the mechanical bits default to brake the car? If not, why not?

    1. That said the marshalls are expected to push the car, so i guess the protocol with or without a fire is to have the brakes off.

    2. It was embarassing for Carlos not to steer the car into the barrier for so long. He sat in the car for no reason trying to do sth else that didn’t work.

      1. That said, I wonder quite how easy it would have been to think of that solution if you were in his place as the car began to catch fire.

        1. Yes, easy to make mistakes\not think straight in that situation.

      2. no easy to steer the car when the steering wheel is not attached anymore otherwise you can’t get out of the car.

        it was for sure a tricky situation

    3. Good point about the brakes. I guess he could have put it in gear but the hydraulic lines if not also the wiring were probably fried already. I don’t think f1 cars have ever had mechanically actuated “parking brakes.”

  3. Normally parking on the access road is a good idea, but when it’s a slope that’s always going to be an issue especially if you need to get out the car quickly, so I’d say Carlos could have positioned the car better.

    However that doesn’t explain the poor marshalling. On the video there’s a man with extinguisher who puts his down and then goes somewhere – perhaps to get in the rescue vehicle? Also I’d you’re positioned on a slope having some wheel chocks bigger than a Toblerone would be useful.

    I’m previous races the first hint of smoke and there’s marshals eager to spray the car and this just seemed the opposite – real fire and only one marshal trying his best on his own.

    1. In that situation, you would think the extinguisher could at least have doubled as a wheel chock. Its like they hadn’t rehersed for that senario.

      1. it’s funny (or shocking) how the pinnacle of motorsport from time to time looks so amateurish.

        1. They are volunteers so they are all amateurs. Without them, no motorsport at any level takes place.

          I think everyone is being way too harsh. These guys save lives and put themselves in the firing line where they can lose their own life.

          Everyones an armchair genius

      2. I dont think it would be wise to use a pressurized bottle to hold a burning vehicle.
        Once the heat get close to the extinguisher, you had a time bomb waiting to go off.

  4. I agree. The response felt slow. It’s like the difference between a 2.5sec pitstop and a 5.5sec one. The casual viewer can’t tell the difference but a regular viewer will fell like it took months. The marshal that stopped the car is a hero, but the whole system need review. The FIA needed to call the VSC sooner so the marshals act sooner.

  5. Marshal with a fire extinguisher was unnecessarily slow indeed.

  6. I would imagine that marshals are ordered to stay off the track until order by Race Control, since otherwise they’re at risk of getting hit by another car.

    It looked like the marshals were ready with fire extinguishers, but presumably they had to wait for the VSC to be deployed first?

  7. it seemed scary-long to me as a viewer – can’t imagine how long it felt for Carlos! glad it turned out okay in the end

    1. Those seconds where he’s struggling to get out and the marshall is just looking at him as the flames engulf the back of the car were scary. I’m yelling at him to steer into the curb as they teach you in drivers ed. it looks like he stops wriggling and grabs the wheel and then decides to just get out. I’m sure he heat was incredible.

  8. It seemed a long time but it was actually around 30 seconds before a fire extinguisher was applied from the moment Carlos pulled up. That 30s included all the time he started rolling back. The marshalls had arrived at around the 20s mark and were running. The only concession I would make is they seemed to have to carry the fire extinguishers from their post when perhaps some should have been stationed already at the opening.

    It’s fair to say it’s so rare that we see fires in F1 these days that perhaps they should review the procedure to ensure a fire extinguisher is there quicker. If we remember Grosjean’s hideous fireball from a few years ago, the fire marshalls were on scene very quickly so probably something to just check. Obviously marshalls must be behind a catch fence in a run off area so there will always be a little time for them to make it to a car. If marshalls aren’t behind catch fences then they can be hit by flying debris and we do not want another marshall ever losing their life again to that if possible.

    What is rather disconcerting is how 2 photographers got to the scene and were taking photos of the flames before the marshalls arrived. Suggests there was some safe area closer to the track they could have had an emergency response marshall. I do wonder if perhaps the marshalls were awaiting an instruction from race control to enter the track which while not ideal, it’s probably what they’re instructed to do normally.

    1. Check the Berger 1989 crash and fire in Imola in Youtube and marshalls reaction.

      1. That was outstandingly quick but the counter to that is what would happen if a car spun out and hit the recovery car. The counter in health and safety terms is you’re putting several people and other drivers on track at risk for that response. Just playing devils advocate though, on balance I think it’s worth that gamble but its the reason why there is more hesitancy these days in marshalling. We saw many instances of brave Marshalls retrieving large debris off the track in days gone by but now the risk would be too great for them to be allowed to enter the track under green flag conditions.

      2. I did look at it and wow…. One observation is that the Imola extinguishers appeared to be halon, not dry chemical, and that is a VERY efficient way to extinguish a fuel fire as a 5% concentration of halon will extinguish the fire. Onboard extinguishers in the cars are halon bottles; another plus is they don’t cause damage to engines, etc. Maybe tracks need to step up their equipment. Personal note: I had an off at Westwood in B.C. in a FF1600 and although I told the marshal everything was okay he panicked and pulled my exterior release, setting off the bottle and costing me $200 for a refill……

  9. Amateurish … yes. Hey, wait a second, aren’t the marshals volunteers, amateurs.??
    This is F1 and not a Porsche Cup or club event. There are rules and procedures controlling where marshals can go under what conditions.
    Are they permitted track-side under a double yellow or do they need to wait for a Safety Car.? My bet is not, only under extreme circumstances.
    There are also regs that require the driver to leave the car in a safe state with the steering wheel attached. In this case, challenging. Yes, an unusual circumstance.
    From a marshalling perspective the main criteria is safety of the drivers, safety of the public, safety of the marshals and further down the list, preservation of the machinery, aka, car.
    Sainz could have beached the car or turned into the barriers, which he did, and just left the car to burn. Every one is safe and the only loss is the car.
    It seems that there is some anger (disappointment) towards the marshals, who as soon as they could, checked on Sainz to make sure he was OK and proceeded to extinguish the fire. Job done.
    Possibly they could have been quicker at attacking the fire, but safety issues over-ride and as there will always never be enough equipment at just the right location.
    I think they did a pretty decent job. For what they get paid, likely an awesome job.

  10. More concerning – and partially the cause for the delay – was that they had to improvise something to hold the car.

  11. What’s even more concerning is the number of people watching and commenting on F1 who have no idea what’s going on … as demonstrated in many of these comments.

    1. Then why not add a positive contribution by explaining it properly?

  12. Difficult to see because the footage cut away. Again.

  13. Seriously slow reactions, was a very dangerous situation.

  14. To all the people commenting that the reaction was slow…

    The marshal actually did their job in the correct way and in a timely manner. Carlos Sainz was not hurt and the car was extinguished when a fire vehicle arrived. That’s mission accomplished.

    I think it’s worth remembering that a marshal’s first duty is to keep themselves safe. It’s no help to anyone to be rushing headfirst into a situation and becoming a casualty as a result.

    I work with several different disciplines at several different racetracks and have been part of training sessions for marshals. As part of that training, fire marshals are made very aware that a hand-held extinguisher is really only there to get a driver out of a car or put out something like a brake fire.

  15. Sainz was a bit dumb. He could have turned the car to the left and leave it rolling against the barrier like in picture number 5. The marshalls did okay, just bad situation bad timing.

  16. Gardenfella, excellent comments. One thing I wondered about as I watched it first time was that the flame burning through the engine cover might have been on Sainz’s right side only, so the marshall on the fence may have been seeing smoke but no flame initially.

    Many people think anyone can use a fire extinguisher, and don’t appreciate that you need training to use it effectively. In my experience of using an extinguisher, you are only going to get about 10 seconds of useful power from it, so it is more important to keep it ready to use in case Sainz had trouble exiting the car and became engulfed in flames.

    I think some of the comments about placement of extinguishers etc are a little harsh. The unusual thing about this type of incident is that it could have happened anywhere on the circuit, including in the pits, or on the way to the winners enclosure. Even if you had extinguishers every ten meters on both sides of the track, someone has still got to get to it, run back to the incident, pull out the safety pin, and do all this while the adrenaline is pumping.

    For Sainz, it would be just as much pressure. It is easy for us to say he just needed to point the wheels to stop it rolling back, but he starts off with a failing engine and is looking for a safe place to pull off before the engine seizes and locks up the car, but in the blink of an eye it has escalated into a fire and voices are screaming at him to get out of the car and he cannot see what is happening behind him. Be honest with yourself, as he was driving up that escape road, did you anticipate that he had to park the car and point the wheels BEFORE you saw it rolling back. In the heat of the moment, I certainly didn’t. Yes, once he’d pulled the steering wheel off and started to get out it was obvious, but before that? Big credit to Sainz for staying in the car, refitting the steering wheel, and making the car safe, despite the flames and smoke raging behind him. If he’d just bailed at that point and let the car roll, few could have criticised him.

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