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

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

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]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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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.

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