A loose chunk of rubber is to blame for Liam Lawson’s gut-wrenching DNF in the Formula 2 feature race at Monza last weekend.
Lawson was comfortably battling for a podium and potentially the win in the 30-lap race on Sunday.
However, on lap 22, he bizarrely came to a stop along the main straight. His onboard fire extinguisher had exploded inexplicably.
It was later revealed that a small piece of tyre rubber had flicked off the circuit and triggered the in-car extinguisher to go off.
“All of a sudden I felt a cold sensation and immediately my whole visor went white with extinguisher stuff,” Lawson said.
“I couldn’t breathe for a couple of seconds because it was in my helmet, it was everywhere and I had know idea what was going on.”
Lawson’s incident was not the first time an F2 car has had its extinguisher set off mid-race.
Mick Schumacher retired from a certain podium finish at the Red Bull Ring last year when he suffered the same fate as Lawson.
Like Lawson, Schumacher’s extinguisher was also triggered by tyre debris.
It can be a terrifying experience for a driver as they become instantly blind while traveling at high speed.
“The scariest part was I couldn’t see, I didn’t know where to pull over,” Lawson said.
“I didn’t know if I was heading for the wall or the grass or another car. I was trying to keep the thing straight and stop somewhere.
“When I stopped, I pulled off a tear-off and worked out where I was.”
Monza was a mixed weekend for Lawson. His strong pace failed to translate into results.
In the first race of the weekend, he damaged his front wing in a clash with Theo Pourchaire.
Pourchaire was slow on the exit of the first chicane, and Lawson ran into the back of him.
It meant that instead of challenging for the victory, Lawson had to pit and was put at the back of the pack. However, he did manage to fight back and finish an impressive fifth.
“I think we had the potential to be on the podium in that race or to be fighting for the win so I am pretty disappointed,” he said.
“At the same time, pretty angry about the incident that happened with Pourchaire. For me, it’s pretty unacceptable.
“It’s disappointing to get brake checked on the exit of a corner like that.”
Lawson is eighth in the F2 standings with three rounds remaining.
The next of those is at Sochi Autodrom on September 24-26.