12 October 2013
Japanese Grand Prix: Early end to Vergne's day
For the second weekend in succession, a car bearing the livery of the Red Bull drinks brand was sitting by the side of the track with flames and smoke billowing from the rear.
Last week it was Mark Webber's car, this time it was the sister Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne that was stricken, in what appeared to be a case of rear brakes overheating and setting light to the bodywork in an incident serious enough to force race control to briefly red flag the session as marshalls scrambled to the scene and smothered the STR8 with extinguisher.
"As I was going out of the pits, my engineer was on the radio to me, so I had to wait until the middle of sector 1 before I could tell him something," reported Vergne after he made his way back to the pits. "I thought I had an engine problem, but then I realised the rear brakes were stuck.
"I tried to brake and there was nothing in the pedal, then I saw the fire and had to stop the car," he continued. "The team will have a lot of work to do tonight, because it took quite a while for the fire to be out. Hopefully the main components are undamaged, the engine and gearbox, but there will be many things to change.
The explained that the cause of the fire had been "a rear brake circuit problem", with Toro Rosso's technical director James Key confirming that the car was fully repairable in time for Sunday's race.
As for the driver himself, Vergne said that "I am fine, apart from getting a bit of fire extinguisher material in my helmet," although his early exit from qualifying means that he will now have to start the race from 17th position on the grid.
"It won't be an easy race starting from this far back, especially as it is not so easy to overtake at Suzuka," he said. "I just hope that I have used up all my share of [all this bad luck] for next year, too."
Vergne's team mate Daniel Ricciardo will start only one place ahead of him on Sunday, after the team spent much of Q2 checking over the Australian's car to ensure that it would not suffer a similar fate.
"From what I've been told there's no reason for me to be concerned about it for the race, as everything was fine on my car," said Ricciardo when asked if the issue might rear up again in the Grand Prix itself.
"That wasn't a good session for us, which is disappointing as yesterday was one of the best Fridays we have had in a while," said Ricciardo of his own qualifying performance. "The wind has played a bit of a part today, but we definitely should have been further up than that.
Japanese Grand Prix
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