The Italian Grand Prix was not all it was expected to be as Minardi's Italian driver, Gianmaria Bruni, had a short-lived race when dramatic events in the pits brought his Monza race to a fiery halt.

by Paul Simmons

The Italian Grand Prix was not all it was expected to be as Minardi's Italian driver, Gianmaria Bruni, had a short-lived race when dramatic events in the pits brought his Monza race to a fiery halt.

There was panic in the Minardi garage as some fuel spilled during the pit stop on lap 30. Bruni, who was surrounded by his pit crew at the time, was not seriously injured but inhaled fumes given off by the fire. The crew quickly put out the flames on Bruni's car and around the garage floor.

"When the refuelling nozzle was pulled away from the car a small amount of petrol leaked out and when it hit the hot parts of the car there was instantly a fire," said Bruni. "Fortunately it was extinguished (almost) immediately but some of the fire retardant got into my helmet and I couldn't breathe properly."

Bruni was checked over by the Toyota team doctor after the incident and team chief Paul Stoddart praised the Minardi mechanics for averting potential disaster.

"I cannot thank the guys enough for their thoroughly professional behaviour and quick reactions that undoubtedly helped to avert what could have been a major incident," said Stoddart. "The mechanics did a fantastic job to extinguish the flames immediately - and whoever thinks Formula One is boring was not around the Minardi garage this afternoon!"

The team has launched a full investigation into the incident but it is not an isolated case as other teams have experienced faulty refuelling rigs in the past. Michael Schumacher had a scare last year when a fire briefly broke out on his car at the Austrian Grand Prix but he went on to win the race. Ferrari have backed refuelling to continue in the sport.

Jos Verstappen, who drove for Minardi last year, famously escaped with minor burns after his Benetton car was engulfed in a fireball at the 1994 German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.