Team celebrating win when fire erupted

Seven people remained hospitalized overnight after a major fire erupted inside Williams’ garage as the Formula 1 team celebrated a rare victory at Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix.

Williams crew and F1 staff members were dragged to safety as fierce flames engulfed the garage, sending thick black smoke out across the pitlane at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.

One fuel rig mechanic was pulled out with his legs on fire, though no one was critically injured.

The flash fire broke out as wheelchair-bound team principal Sir Frank Williams was delivering a congratulatory speech after Pastor Maldonado became the first Williams driver to claim a race win in eight years.

Staff were taking celebratory photos when a fuel rig being used to drain the car of Maldonado’s teammate Bruno Senna apparently leaked, sparking the blaze. Veteran team boss Williams, 70, was swiftly wheeled to safety.

Thirty-one people were treated by medical staff for smoke inhalation, with 24 later released.

Williams confirmed a total of four team personnel were among the injured, with three of them joining four others in being flown to local hospitals in Barcelona for further treatment.

Maldonado, who had earlier outraced home favorite Fernando Alonso to deliver the landmark victory for him and Williams, heroically carried his 12-year-old cousin to safety amid the drama.

Team manager Dickie Stanford later confirmed everything inside the garage was destroyed.

Rival teams were understood to be rallying around Williams, with offers to loan equipment for the England-based team to compete at the Monaco Grand Prix in two weeks’ time after Sunday’s joy turned to misery.

Maldonado’s success ended a winless run for the team that dated back 132 races to Juan Pablo Montoya’s victory in Brazil in 2004.

Maldonado, who earned his F1 debut in 2011, became the first Venezuelan to even claim a place on the podium, let alone take the checkered flag.

The result in Barcelona continued a remarkable start to the 2012 season, with the 27-year-old becoming the fifth driver — from five different teams — to claim victory in the first five races.