It’s easy to forget that, like drivers, pit crew members frequently put themselves in harm’s way for the big win. We saw a brutal reminder of this on Sunday when Ferrari mechanic Francesco Cigorini had his leg run over by driver Kimi Räikkönen post-release. While the incident wasn’t life threatening, it did serve to show that the pit lane is not for the faint of heart (nor is the video, seen below).
Räikkönen had come in for his second tire swap of the Bahrain Grand Prix and was given the go ahead to launch before Cigorini had finished his work. He and another mechanic were still attempting to remove the left rear tire when the car was released and Francesco was struck. The car was stopped while still in pit lane and retired immediately, killing any hope of a podium finish. The normally calm Räikkönen removed his steering wheel and threw it into the cockpit in anger after realizing he’d be stuck with a DNF.
To be fair, Kimi cannot be faulted for the incident. During pit stops, F1 drivers are singularly fixated on getting the go ahead and have little idea of what is taking place around them. “I don’t see what happens,” Räikkönen said after the race. “My job is to go when the light is green.”
A little over an hour later, Scuderia Ferrari announced the mechanic had suffered a shinbone and fibula fracture requiring surgery. In the hours to come, the team expressed its gratitude for all the well-wishing coming Cigorini’s way, while Ferrari chief Sergio Marchionne expressed his sympathy.
“First and foremost, I wish our mechanic a speedy recovery and hope to see him back on the track soon,” he said in a statement. “I am sorry for Kimi who could certainly have finished on the podium. The team performed consistently all weekend and we were front-runners from the start of practice.”
Ferrari still won, however. Sebastian Vettel still managed to take first place in Bahrain but admitted to the win feeling muted after the day’s events. “A bit sad because one of our mechanics got injured,” Vettel said when asked how he was feeling. “A mixed day overall.”
“What happened to our guy Francesco today at the pit-stop is very unfortunate. I feel sorry for him and hope he’s going to be OK soon,” he said. “It’s always a bad thing when someone gets injured but I am sure he has the best people taking good care of him and I wish him a speedy recovery. As for the accident itself, all I know is that I moved when I saw the green light go on. I couldn’t have possibly realized that there was an issue with the rear left wheel, then I saw someone had got hurt and, immediately, I was told to stop by the team. Unfortunately something must have gone wrong and we’ll need to find out what.”
[Image: Scuderia Ferrari]