Serious scenes

Maurice HamiltonAs the usual podium celebration was acted out with the spraying of champagne and a rowdy reception from the Ferrari team below, there was a quiet and much more serious scene a couple of hundred metres away in a corner of parc ferme.

McLaren are not noted for overt displays of festivity – such things in public are considered a weakness in the pseudo perfect world of Ron Dennis – but you could forgive the guys in the white t-shirts for once as they limited their appreciation of Lewis Hamilton’s encouraging third place to enthusiastic applause.

In the back of everyone’s mind had to be the accident which had taken out the McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen. More to the point; the team was keen to discover the cause of his 140mph headlong charge into the tyre barrier at the fastest corner on the circuit.

Which brings us to the serious little scene in parc ferme.

The remains of Kovalainen’s car had been brought there on the back of a truck. A black sheet covered the car and three mechanics were seen to be peering beneath it and closely examining the front of the McLaren.

Which was odd because the accident had been clearly caused by a catastrophic failure of the left-front wheel and yet the wheel and the entire left-front suspension were missing from the deposited remains of McLaren number 23.

The best that McLaren could guess immediately after the race was that a piece of debris or perhaps a small stone – of which many had been sprayed onto the track by wayward cars at various points of the track – had become caught between the brake caliper and the wheel and machined its way through the rim, causing the tyre to deflate immediately.

Kovalainen was a passenger from that moment on as the McLaren continued at unabated speed across the gravel trap and speared straight into the five neatly stacked rows of tyres.

The impact was severe enough to generate 26g and rip off both front wheels. The shunt was reminiscent of Lewis Hamilton’s meeting with a tyre wall during qualifying at the Nurburgring last year and Luciano Burti’s colossal accident in a Prost at Spa’s Blanchimont corner in 2001.

Michael Schumacher also had a head-on at Stowe on the first lap of the British Grand Prix in 1999, the crash breaking a leg as the Ferrari chassis twisted and fractured during the frontal impact. Which brings us back to Kovalainen’s McLaren.

It could be that the McLaren mechanics were taking a close look at the front of the chassis, which is believed to have been torn open at the point where the pedals are mounted.

If this is true, then the McLaren engineers – and the FIA technical department – will need to know why such major accident damage occurred in a chassis which receives a hefty frontal impact test – among others – before being allowed to race.

And given the tight confines of F1 cockpits that fit more snugly than an Italian suit, the McLaren lads were probably wondering how on earth their driver got away without a single broken bone.

It seems Kovalainen brought new meaning to a driver being quick on his feet as he somehow pulled them back from potential disaster.

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