BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Pierre Gasly was at risk of missing qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Friday after his car burst into flames, causing a red flag that ate into the little practice time available.
Gasly tried to drive back to the pits with flames visible at the rear of the car before parking on the side of the track. Thick black smoke poured from under the engine cover of the Alpine as Gasly watched a group of track marshals douse the fire. They used several fire extinguishers, leaving the car’s cockpit soaked with foam.
It was another setback for Gasly after he collided with teammate Esteban Ocon during the last race in Australia.
“Pierre was forced to stop on track due to a loss of hydraulic pressure on his car, the team will look to investigate the cause,” said Alpine, which kept Ocon’s car in the garage after that incident.
“We’re investigating an issue at the rear of Esteban’s car as a precaution,” the team added.
The incident caused a red flag for about 13 minutes in the hour-long practice session of the F1 weekend. The clock doesn’t stop for red flags in practice sessions, meaning teams lost valuable time to perfect their setups before qualifying later Friday. There were two and a half hours between the end of practice and the start of qualifying.
“Not the start to our weekend that we would’ve wanted, but the team are working flat out to be ready for Quali later on,” Alpine said.
There is only one practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix because of a new schedule that includes a sprint race Saturday and a second qualifying session the same day for the sprint.
Kevin Magnussen stopped his Haas on the track at about the same time as Gasly’s fire. The team said he had an unexpected loss of fuel pressure.
Championship leader Max Verstappen was fastest in practice but there were encouraging signs for Ferrari as Charles Leclerc was only 0.037 seconds slower. Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez was third-fastest ahead of Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz Jr.
The Associated Press