One of the more dramatic scenes of the Hungarian Grand Prix yesterday was the sight of Nick Heidfeld's black and gold Renault emerging from the pits, flames pouring from the side of the car.
This is not the first time the German has had to escape from a fiery car this season, his machine also caught fire during a Free Practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix.
Heidfeld pitted for a planned pit stop, but a wheel-nut issue meant he was stationary for longer than usual, with his engine running at high revs. As a result of this, his car apparently overheated. However, due to the unique front-exiting exhaust system the Renault team run, the heat and flames appeared at the front of the sidepods rather than at the back of the car which would be the case for any other team.
The bodywork around the sidepods ignited, and Heidfeld had to make a quick exit from cockpit, clearly aware of the vast heat being produced.
The marshalls were quickly on the scene, armed with fire extinguishers, but the flaming sidepod unexpectedly exploded, appearing to slightly injure a marshall.
Although the exact cause of the explosion has not yet been determined, technical expert Craig 'Scarbs' Scarborough explains possible causes:
"Sidepods contain a multitude of systems; many items being solely in the left or right hand sidepods, rarely are any internals symmetrical left to right.
Typical components in this area are.
• Water radiator (LHS)
• Oil radiator (RHS)
• Hydraulic reservoir (varies)
• Nitrogen cylinder for the engine Pneumatic valve return system (varies)
• KERS battery water radiator (RHS)
• SECU, PCU, Battery, Lap time beacon (typically RHS)
• KERS PCU (RHS)
It's important to note, sidepods do not contain the KERS batteries or the MGU. Also the gearbox oil and hydraulic fluid coolers are mounted atop the gearbox. There is very in the of little hydraulic systems being in the front of the sidepods, only the lines for the power steering passes this far forward in the car."
This is a spectator's impressive video of the events which unfolded on track:
To read Scarb's article in full, visit scarbsf1.wordpress.com