Oh Snap! F1 Mechanic Breaks Leg During Ferrari Pit Stop, Rikknen Gets DNF

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
oh snap f1 mechanic breaks leg during ferrari pit stop rikknen gets dnf

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.”

The team was fined $79,800 for an unsafe pit release — a violation it also saw during Friday’s practice. Räikkönen discussed the incident further before going to visit Cigorini in the hospital.

“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]

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  • NeilM NeilM on Apr 09, 2018

    Ferrari's release system, which illuminates the green release light when the wheel is in contact with the hub, has a twofold design problem. One problem is that that the wheel contacting the hub does not ensure that it's either properly in place or that the wheel nut has been torqued down. The other, as we now see, is that there needs to be sensor circuit logic to require first detecting the removal of the original wheel before validating the presence of the replacement and signaling green.

    • Urlik Urlik on Apr 09, 2018

      I suspect every team will be adding that logic this week. The jack man and the Lead man had the ability to stop the green but there is just too much going on in 2 seconds.

  • NeilM NeilM on Apr 09, 2018

    Oh, and count me in against the disgraceful headline above. The Ferrari mechanic suffered tib/fib fractures — both bones in the lower leg. He's going to have plates and screws in there, and a long recovery. Given the agility and flexibility needed by an F1 tire changer he may never be able to do his job again. Nothing funny about it.

    • Brandloyalty Brandloyalty on Apr 09, 2018

      This is what the mechanics do during races. They are not dedicated pit stop crew. The injured person would still have their regular and far more important duties even if they can't change tires any more. They could adjust the front wing or steady the car.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?
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