SEPANG, Malaysia — The story of Kevin Magnussen’s Friday at Sepang Int’l Circuit wasn’t what he did on the track, which was slot in 19th overall on the practice charts at the controls of the Renault RS16.
Rather, it was what happened during the first of two sessions as he was being wheeled back to the paddock, when the car suddenly caught fire and left the Dane scrambling to escape as his crew and surrounding safety workers fought the erupting flames.
Magnussen had just completed his first installation lap and was being wheeled back into the Renault garage when the flames burst forth from the top of the engine cover. He jumped clear and the team quickly began to fight the blaze, but with fuel continuing to leak, the car continued to catch fire and it was nearly 10 minutes before the situation was calmed.
Despite what would be an apparent loss for the day, the team scrambled to rebuild Magnussen’s mount and get him out for whatever laps they could in the second practice session, which they did successfully after Magnussen was able to roll out for roughly half the round.
Posting a best lap of 1:37.664, the young star — who turns 24 on Wednesday — was largely unshaken and was able to put the incident in perspective after taking some laps in the afternoon.
“We expected it to be hot in Sepang, but maybe not as hot as that!” Magnussen quipped. “It was a tough situation, but my crew (was) great dealing with the fire and getting the car back into action for the afternoon. From my perspective, I heard the call on the radio to jump out and I didn’t need to be told twice!”
“In the afternoon, we were able to get some laps, so the day wasn’t a write-off. There’s a bit too much oversteer (on) entry with the initial set-up, but we know where we want to improve. Just glad we were able to get on-track.”
Renault technical director Nick Chester cited an issue with the fuel breather system as the cause for the fire.
“We had a difficult start to the day with Kevin’s car, obviously. There was a problem with a valve on a fuel breather pipe, which meant that fuel escaped from the vent, causing a fire,” Chester explained. “We were running the tank full and we were running some experimental parts really in preparation for Mexico, so (Magnussen’s car had) a different set-up (on it compared) to the other car (of teammate Jolyon Palmer).”
“Everyone’s okay, that’s the main thing. The crew did a great job keeping everything under control so we could address the problem. We changed fuel systems for the second session and don’t expect any further issues.”
Chester also wasn’t concerned with the team’s overall performance being affected by the situation, as the sister Renault with Palmer at the wheel was 12th overall on the practice charts, setting a best time of 1:36.940 and picking up more than two seconds from the morning round.
“Kevin was able to complete half of the afternoon session, so he has a baseline (setup) to work with. Between both drivers (Magnussen and teammate Jolyon Palmer) we have some good information to progress the set-up and tire performance on the new track surface here in Sepang, so we’re fairly happy with all things considered.”
Next up for the Formula One field in Malaysia will be pole qualifying, which airs Saturday morning at 5 a.m. ET, live on NBCSN.
Formula One Communications contributed to this story.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 22-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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