The Renault team has been forced to scrap Nick Heidfeld’s roasted chassis following the spectacular fire that ended the German’s race during the Hungarian Grand Prix.
The Grand Prix veteran had to hastily abandon his car when it caught fire following a longer-than-normal pit stop; he was fortunate to escape any injury.
The team has since confirmed that he will be issued with a different chassis for September’s Belgian Grand Prix, while it has also released details of what caused the bonfire.
“[The fire] was caused by the air bottle which supplies the air valves in the engine. It has overheated in the fire and failed,” Renault’s technical director James Allison explained.
“As with most accidents, several incidents combined to cause the fire that Nick suffered in Hungary,” he added. “First of all, we ran a slightly different engine mapping strategy in qualifying, which produced hotter than normal exhausts. We believe that this elevated temperature and caused a preliminary crack in the exhaust pipe.
“We presume that the crack then propagated during the laps to the pit stop – this was not evident to us as we believe that the failure occurred upstream of the place where we have a temperature sensor. We believe that Nick then came in with a partially failed exhaust.
“This pit stop took longer than normal, the engine was left at high RPM for 6.3 seconds, waiting for the tyre change to be completed. Under these conditions, a lot of excess fuel always ends up in the exhausts and their temperature rises at around 100°C/sec. This temperature rise was enough to finish off the partially failed pipe and to start a moderate fire under the bodywork.”
While confirming that it would be scrapping Heidfeld’s molten chassis, it also confirmed it would be liaising with the FIA to provide them with a full report of what happened.
“The incident was highly undesirable, as it has caused us to write off a chassis. Allison added. “We will take steps prior to the next race to reduce the likelihood of a further fire and to ensure that the air bottle cannot overheat.
“We are in touch with the FIA both to provide them with a full report of the incident and also to explain to them the actions we are taking to prevent a re-occurrence.”
The team is set to introduce a heavily-revised car for the upcoming Belgian Grand Prix, in the wake of the team having progressively lost competitiveness since its back-to-back podium finishes in the opening rounds of the season.
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