Damaged seal caused pitstop fire

A damaged seal on Michael Schumacher's fuel rig was to blame for a pitstop fire at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix, Ferrari said.

Ferrari technicians extinguish a fire from Michael Schumacher's car, that occurred during refuelling. Schumacher went on to win the race. — Pic. AP-

The team said a small amount of fuel had remained in the breather hose of the fuel rig after it was used to supply Brazilian team-mate Rubens Barrichello's car on lap 21.

The same rig was then used to refuel world champion Schumacher when he came in for his first stop two laps later.

"It appeared that a seal was damaged on the breather hose, so the fuel left inside it was able to escape, thus starting a fire, which was further exacerbated by vapour escaping from the same hose," said a Ferrari statement.

The incident, with fuel leaking on to the Ferrari's red-hot exhausts, could have cost Schumacher the race but instead the German stayed calmly in his car before roaring out of the pitlane to retake the lead.

Formula One's governing body has said it would also investigate the flare-up while Ferrari promised a step-by-step review of the problem.

The five-time world champion sat coolly in his Ferrari as flames leapt from the fuel tank of his car.

The danger was ended when mechanics reached for the fire extinguishers but the German's car left the pits underfuelled which threatened his chances of taking a third successive win this season.

"Maybe the mechanics thought I was too cold and cool and needing warming up a little," laughed Schumacher.

"But we did our job under the circumstances and the car worked very well.

"We did some fast lap times after that to ensure the margin we needed for our strategy."