Formula E

"I was a fireman!" - Why did Sebastien Buemi's car catch fire in Formula E crash in Rome?

Tobias Bluhm

Tobias Bluhm


It was a sight that caused unease to spread through the Formula E paddock: In the 2023 Rome E-Prix Saturday race, several drivers were involved in a pile-up collision. The safe crash structure and halo device presumably saved Sam Bird (Jaguar) and Antonio Felix da Costa (Porsche) from worse injuries. But also Sebastien Buemi, whose car caught fire in the accident, came off lightly.

The crash in Saturday's Formula E race in Rome may have been one of the costliest in the history of the electric series. Eight cars were prematurely taken out of the fight for points positions, and numerous others were damaged by contact with rivals or the track boundaries. Sebastien Buemi was also hit particularly hard.

Firefighter Frijns: "Track marshals couldn't get to the car"

The Swiss crashed into the vehicle of Sam Bird parked across the track and then even threatened to roll over. A little later, Felix da Costa also hit the Envision car. In the process, he apparently damaged Buemi's vehicle so badly that the rear section of the Jaguar-powered car caught fire.

Robin Frijns (ABT), who also retired in the wake of the accident, was quick to extinguish the flames. "Today I played fireman," the Dutchman laughed afterwards - well aware of the dangerous situation he defused. "I parked behind him and saw that the car was on fire. Once that started, it just got worse and worse. The marshals were behind the fence and couldn't really get to it, so I took the extinguisher from them and (put the fire out) myself."

Flammable liquids in Formula E as well

Fire extinguishers being used in the electric racing series has been a real rarity in the nine-year history of the championship - gasoline or parts of an internal combustion engine cannot catch fire in Formula E cars, after all. The last time a fire occurred in the series was in Season 3, when, remarkably also on Sebastien Buemi's car, a brake caught fire following a practice accident in Montreal. But how does it happen that the rear of a Formula E race car catches fire?


"The rear part of his car was completely detached," Frijns tries to explain. "The gearbox, the engine and all the rest were disconnected. As a result, oil and other fluids were leaking out. And those are flammable."

Buemi himself dodged questions from about the Envision on fire: He "didn't see" the fire, he said. "I think Robin took care of it." Buemi's team itself also did not respond to several inquiries from Thankfully, by the early hours of the second day of racing in Rome, Buemi's car was operational again. The Swiss finished the Sunday race in fifth position.

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