By Abhishek Takle
SEPANG, Malaysia (Reuters) - Not even the blaze that engulfed his Renault could melt Kevin Magnussen’s Scandinavian reserve in Friday’s opening practice for the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix, though he certainly felt the heat.
The 23-year-old Dane was being wheeled into his garage after completing two installation laps when his car suddenly burst into flames seven minutes into the morning’s 90-minute session. Magnussen wasted no time in fleeing the blaze, rapidly undoing his seatbelts and hot-footing it out of his Renault.
“Just the heat,” a cool and collected Magnussen told reporters after the day’s running had concluded, even engaging in barbecue jokes.
“Everything worked well on the car on the in-lap, so just saw the smoke and hopped out,” said Magnussen, adding that he had had no indication of any problems as he brought the car into the pits.
While Magnussen made it back to the safety of his garage, his car remained stranded in the pitlane as fuel gushed out of the top of the airbox repeatedly catching fire which the team’s mechanics kept putting out.
The team was trying out a new fuel system on Magnussen’s car in preparation for next month’s high altitude Mexican Grand Prix which had caused the problem, they said.
“There was a problem with a valve on a fuel breather pipe which meant that fuel escaped from the vent, causing a fire,” said Renault technical director Nick Chester.
The incident prompted a 15-minute stoppage but the fire was eventually doused and Magnussen was back out in the afternoon session, his car fitted with the old fuel system and cleaned of extinguisher foam.
He set the 19th-fastest time but was encouraged by team mate Jolyon Palmer’s pace who ended the day a promising 12th.
“Yeah, it’s good to see,” said Magnussen. “Let’s hope that practice three is a similar picture and that we can carry it into qualifying.”
Renault have struggled this season on their return to Formula One as a full-fledged works team.
But there have been signs of progress with Magnussen scoring only the team’s second ever finish in the points with his drive to 10th at the last race in Singapore.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)