Alonso: Button drain crash shows we need canopies

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In the round-up: Fernando Alonso says his team mate Jenson Button’s collision with a loose drain cover highlights the need for better driver head protection.

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It was an encouraging start for Red Bull yesterday:

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I don’t want to jump to conclusions on the new-spec Renault power unit or anything like that though. Mercedes had a massive margin at Barcelona, which is a much more reliable benchmark than Monaco. However Ricciardo is looking very strong this weekend.
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72 comments on “Alonso: Button drain crash shows we need canopies”

  1. “This can only extend their grief.”

    I made a big point about this a few hours ago, and will reinforce it again.

    Nobody except the family themselves is qualified to talk about what will and what will not give them grief. It’s wrong, and in my view morally wrong, to make assumptions on how somebody else feels about a family member’s death, especially based on your own personal opinion and emotions.

    1. @strontium – Totally agree.

    2. @strontium I was about to post the same thing.

      When talking about this sort of thing you have to ask yourself: “Am I really in a position to comment about it?” It’s impressive how lightly people are talking about Jules’ family, their intentions, their grief… it’s so, so personal.

      As you say, it’s morally wrong. It’d even go further than wrong. It’s disgusting to hear that kind of comment. The hell people know about how Jules’ father feels… what he had to endure for a year, watching his son in comma after a horrible accident…

      Maybe finding some answers (even if they are not the ones they are looking for) might close the chapter for them. Let them decide whatever they want, none of us are in a position to discuss the reasons behind it and what benefit or relief it might or might not give to them, as @bullmello says too.

    3. Very well said. Some utterly disgusting comments out there today regarding such a sensitive issue. No idea how people can be so cynical about a grieving family that has every right to demand fair allocation of responsibility. The FIA investigation was a whitewash and they are absolutely correct in taking this to a court of law.

      To those making suggestions that the Bianchi family are doing this for money, you are a waste of oxygen.

    4. You’re right.

    5. ColdFly F1 (@)
      27th May 2016, 8:37

      Of course it’s only the family who can determine what gives them grief. @strontium

      But Jackie said “I () think …” and there is nothing wrong with such a statement. Especially since his previous involvement in F1, and ‘the sport’s leading campaigner for greater safety’ (according to the same article).
      His full quote is: “It is very sad for his family – and one can only feel great sympathy for them. But I do not think taking legal action is the right path to go down. This can only extend their grief. It will not make the pain go away.”

    6. This is all very political correct. Nobody knows how anybody else really feel about anything, even if they tell you, there is always a chance they are lying. But in general, through the magic of empathy and experience, we can relate with the feelings of others, even if the feeling itself is not the same. And being humans, it happens mostly automatically. While it might be better not to take a cautious approach when tragic things like this happen and not go around making such specific statements (hence the “i understand your (insert emotion) in stead of “i know how you feel” ), to throw around morally wrong is just stupid. There are plenty of help programs developed based on understanding other peoples feelings and explain it to them. And groups of people who went through a tragedy and find other people who understand their pain.

    7. To @strontium and all who agreed with you: sorry but I value Stewart and Watson’s opinions way over yours. They’ve been there, they’ve suffered losses of their racing friends, they saw what it does to their families. Stewart , to give you just one example has been extremely close to Jochen Rindt family for decades. And before you say it’s just one family, note the “just one example” above

      Moreover, Stewart has said that he respects fully the family’s position he just doesn’t think it would be good for them. Stewart and Watson have earned the right to their opinion. They’re not armchair experts on the internet

      1. @thetick – Everyone has the right to their own opinion. And some opinions may be more “expert” than others. However, I believe the only opinions that truly matter in this particular case are those of the Bianchi family themselves.

        1. @bullmello They(the Bianchis) decide by themselves what to do so in that sense you’re correct. However, it’s wrong to say that no one can’t advice them. Stewart and Watson have earned the right to advice on this matter. It’s up to the family to take their advice or leave it, but the right is theirs

    8. Tony Mansell
      27th May 2016, 14:36

      SO you cant talk about someone else…..unless you are telling them they are morally wrong/disgusting/a waste of oxygen….That’s fine. Get off your high horse its cold up there.

  2. Wereld can i see the drain incident?

    1. Sky have a clip available.

  3. title should read, halo used to excuse gross negligence. There is no guarantee that the ‘halo’ would have deflected that thing, it would have only ‘mitigated’ the risk of a ‘freak’ incident. Nothing is guaranteed, and making a proposal with out having put forth quantifiable evidence is hardly a convincing proposition. The FIA would be better off policing itself and ensuring the people who take care of the circuit are doing their job.

    Is it really the case that drain covers are left in poor repair/poorly secured on sanctioned F1 circuits? Will the FIA absolve itself of any responsibility in it’s pursuit to shift the ‘risk’/responsibility on to the little guys.

    1. @xsavior The drain lids are supposed to be covered or welded shut.

      My guess is because it’s Monaco, they will get a wide berth with regards to following the letter of the law, but public cock-ups like this can’t look good.

      1. Just hope one of the commentators has the where with all to turn that point about the halo back to the organizing body that is in fact responsible for ensuring a safe circuit. The more I hear about the Halo, the more it sounds like a way to shift blame and responsibility. I have no qualms with people or teams advocating or using some sort of a shield, I do have a problem when organizing bodies use it as a shield for themselves.

      2. Not much happened when Barrichello pulled one up in 2012– In fact, I think it was the exact same cover. And that year, they had two pop up during the race.

        1. Michael Brown (@)
          27th May 2016, 3:43


          1. Dang lysdexia. You’re correct, of course.

      3. The cover in question had been welded in 4 places prior to the weekend. So we can at least say the FIA and circuit owners tried to do something before the accident. Apparently it wasn’t welded down hard enough…

        Also, nothing happened after China 2005, where Juan Pablo Montoya’s race was ended by a particularly energetic drain cover extraction. The precedent is there, and I worry this pattern of recurring non- or low-key action (this is the first time I’ve heard of anyone doing anything other than replace the drain with the exact same weld pattern) being limited this way until something more serious happens.

    2. The FIA with its vast financial resources and constant stream of regulation is not competent enough to ensure that the drain covers are secured before letting several series of formula race cars drive over them for an entire weekend – despite several similar drain cover incidents in recent years and two very high-profile head injury fatalities.

      1. @fletchuk, strictly speaking, shouldn’t responsibility for the preparation of the drain covers come under the responsibility of the clerk of the course and the Automobile Club de Monaco?

        1. It is, something the FIA will not overlook when it does its post-race review of how the weekend went. (Though the amount of welding that is reported to have already been on the drain suggests that it would have passed the FIA inspection in that state, and therefore the incident would be classified as a “learning point” rather than an item about which to cast blame).

    3. I assume you noticed the title doesn’t say Halo? Alonso says a canopy is needed, not a Halo. A full canopy (fighter jet style) would certainly stop it.

      1. @exediron No actually he says canopy idea, not canopy. In the article it implies he is talking about some sort of head protection.

        Enough mention has already been made in various articles that they likely won’t be able to just slap on a fighter jet style canopy on these cars. Ask yourself why the efforts we have seen so far from Merc, Ferrari, and RBR have not been a full canopy.

        There are issues of access to an unconscious driver, keeping it clean, heat, fire, smoke, condensation inside the cockpit. There seem to be way too many issues with a fighter jet canopy, unless they were to completely redesign F1 cars and dramatically change their look and the definition of what F1 is, in order to accommodate a full canopy that would actually be safer than the open cockpit they have now.

      2. Not necessarily. 9kg / 20lb steel plates traveling at 80+ mph are no laughing matter, and if all that energy is concentrated on the edge of the plate, it’s going to cut through most carbon fibre / plastic constructs. If it’s something akin to lexan, and has enough area to spread the impact across, you might stop it, but at best, you’re hoping to bleed off enough energy of the plate before it hits the driver to make it a serious injury, rather than a fatal one.

        Further strikes against the full canopy are that in FIA WEC, a full canopy also means a requirement for air conditioning and wipers.

  4. …or properly prepared race tracks

  5. – Nico Rosberg should get new Mercedes contract in ‘next three weeks’, says Niki Lauda (Sky)

    Not renewing Nico’s contract, slippery though he may be, will be a very big surprise.
    I expect him to continue his sojourn at Mercedes. It does look like, at least to me, that he will finish his career at Mercedes as I don’t think there are teams who would like to have him driving for them unless of course he comes with sponsors. It does seem he does not have as much regard in the paddock as other top drivers do.

    1. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
      27th May 2016, 1:18

      “I don’t think there are teams who would like to have him driving for them”
      Why? As far as I know he is:
      – A very safe pair of hands in Quali.
      – Hardworking
      – Experienced with testing and simulator work.
      – A multiple times winner.
      I would choose him to replace Kimi. I would choose him to lead Renault instead of Magnussen. I would make him return to Williams if Massa decides to retire. And I don’t mention more teams because I think that the guy is entitled to choose just top machinery or at least top midfield cars.

      1. Agreed, in normal circumstances Nico would have a choice of teams give his performances – just right now there really are zero good drives available

    2. You feel that THE top team today, who can practically get any driver they want to drive for them, will choose that particular driver whom no other team wants.

      Doesn’t that sound illogical?

      1. As he is thrashing Hamilton this year and was always close what does that say about Lewis? Next year Nicole will likely be the champion unless someone can launch an almighty comeback.

      2. The top team today is naturally interested in the title-leading driver. It’s more unusual when they’re not (though as Williams and several of their drivers prove, it does happen in some circumstances).

    3. I think several other teams would gladly hire Rosberg but I do not think Mercedes want to get rid of him. Unless they want to snatch Alonso or Vettel and thus risk even more friction within the team, Rosberg is the best driver they can get. So as long as his difficult relationship with Hamilton does not spiral out of control, there will be no changes.

      1. I think it’s a key question @girts whether there’d be more friction or less with Alonso than with Rosberg. Toto must be trying to work out whether there’d be less contact with NR or FA.

        I’m not sure about other teams being interested, we haven’t heard anything have we? Pace-wise he’s the best No.2 out there but he doesn’t seem to have the temperament. His aggressiveness flies under the radar because Lewis avoids most of it, but he’s no JB, in fact I’d say he’s often quite wild in T1.

  6. More power to the family of Jules Bianchi to do whatever they need to do and for whatever reasons they choose to do it. Only they can decide what is right and proper in this case, for Jules, for themselves. There are many loose ends and unanswered questions in this case that deserve answers so it does not happen again.

    For fans, reporters and even the great Sir Jackie Stewart to presume to know what is best for them to do is wrong as it is impossible for them to walk in their shoes. I respect what Sir Jackie has done for safety and the sport itself and we know he has suffered losses in this sport. I’m sure he knows what works best for him.

    This action, to me, does not look like they are doing it for profit or because it is easy. Speaking from personal experience, when a loved one dies, material things, money, take on a much lesser importance as you have just witnessed what is really most important in life. And wealth is not it.

    It looks like they are doing what they feel should be done so others do not suffer as they are now and will be suffering the loss of Jules continuing on into the future. The language and demeanor of the FIA report was such that even though some changes were made as a result of this accident, responsibility was shrugged off. What other actions could they take to insure proper responsibility is taken for this accident and in the future? Should the FIA in particular not be held completely accountable for any and all races under their jurisdiction?

    Why did it take an essentially fatal accident to make better efforts to keep heavy equipment and race cars apart from each other on a live track, especially where there have been incidents preceding this one? Some people claim that this was a freak accident and nothing like this had ever happened. Then, Martin Brundle must be a prophet. The best time to prevent an accident is before it happens. Maybe that is what the Bianchi’s actions will do. I hope so.

    1. Yeah, the report giving us

      The language and demeanor of the FIA report was such that even though some changes were made as a result of this accident, responsibility was shrugged off.

      as well as concluding that Bianchi not slowing down enough point to a lack of the FIA wanting to solve the issues laying at the foundation of desicion making over event safety.

  7. Mustavo Gaia
    27th May 2016, 0:46

    I’ve been watching 60’s indy500 races and most cars had a device similar to the aeroscreen.
    And about the overhead air intake, for a long time it did not exist in F1 cars.
    Bring the aeroscreen once and for all.
    Are they expecting and worse-than-hungary’s-massa to implement such a solution?

  8. The drain cover incident proves that the drain cover should have been properly secured…. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to have some extra protection for the driver’s head, anyhow, F1 had a lucky escape, and what a day to have such a massive mishap.

    1. @peartree The bigger problem is drain cover is already too often to be a problem in Monaco. It’s baffling nothing has be done all this year to secure it, maybe a temporary bolt during race weekend should be a cheap and easy enough routine during the circuit preparation phase.

      1. As far as I know they go through ALL the drains and manhole covers before the weekend and weld them down (bolts can be just ripped out, and could be sharp edges) @sonicslv.

        It seems here either the welds failed (not properly done?), or someone failed to do this one up properly and then they apparently missed it during inspection.

        1. BasCB, do you know how they inspect the welds? I mean it will be bloody difficult to find a machine that simulates F1 level downforces that can be used to test this, right?

          1. As @alianora-la-canta mentions below, theres four welds (from each side one?), which probably had proven to be enough previously. Checking would then be done optically – if all four are in place (and look ok – you could even check them with a special tool, to see whether they are done fine, but I don’t think that shoul be needed to to all the time) it should be fine.

            Maybe they will now have to do longer welds, or more of them for the future with higher downforce levels Sumedh

        2. @bascb Is it metal cover or concrete cover? Because the way it shattered looks like its concrete. They can also design the bolt housing sunk a bit so the bolt head will be on a level with the rest of the cover so there wouldn’t be any sharp edges.

          But, whatever the methods are, it’s obvious that it not working considering there are too many drainage cover incident in Monaco.

          1. These drain covers are cast iron @sonicslv, its the sheer force of the impact that shattered it.

      2. This particular drain had four welds, according to the report. I don’t know how that compares to the usual drain-securing procedures for a F1 race, but I’d venture to suggests “more downforce than expected due to developments in this year’s cars” had more to do with it than anything else. 2010 (the last time it happened in Monaco) was another year where downforce increased a lot compared to the previous year with no obvious regulation change prompting it.

        1. Agree that higher downforce levels are likely to have contributed. Another issue to think about for next year then @alianora-la-canta. And lets also hope that after this incident both Canada and Singapore double check on their drain covers to avoid incidents there!

  9. I seem to be alone in this but I am incredibly disappointed in Bianchi’s family for suing Marussia. All the other points and elements of the lawsuit I get, but Marussia were themselves destroyed and distraught and I feel they don’t carry blame. It’s unnecessarily litigious and unfair on the people who lived through it.

    1. I didn’t initially understand suing Marussia until it was brought to my attention about the apparent throttle failsafe not working.

      I think their case is ultimately about getting satisfactory answers to how an avoidable death was allowed to happen, something not provided by the internal investigation.

  10. Ricciardo’s Red Bull is looking good. Let’s see what happens on Saturday afternoon. RIC on pole in front of both Mercedes would make things interesting.

    1. Before the wrong team strategy or a tyre puncture

  11. Didn’t I hear Vettel say he wasn’t worried about red bull two weeks ago???

  12. I do not think that Bianchi’s family will be able to prove that someone else was guilty for his death. However, I hope that the lawsuit and its coverage will force the FIA & FOM to act more responsibly in the future. “He was driving too fast” is a poor excuse as then we might as well live with the ‘safety measures’ from the 1950s. What, there is no fencing around the track? No problem, just slow down and everyone will be safe.

    There are some safety measures that can harm the sport and there are some that do not really make anything worse. That tractor did not have to be there, VSC should have been implemented years ago and the race should have been started earlier (even if the latter probably had no impact in this case). The FIA and FOM are responsible for not implementing these simple measures before Bianchi’s crash, which was easily avoidable. Yes, ‘motor racing is dangerous’ but that does not mean that tractors or loose drain covers should pose danger to the drivers.

    1. @girts Not really disagreeing with you, but I think to make the 50’s/no fencing analogy work you would have to add that due to there being no fencing there are double yellow flags waving everywhere to warn the drivers to slow down due to danger.

      Another factor in this that to me might have some teeth for the family is that if they couldn’t fly a helicopter at that point, should the race have been red flagged until an air ambulance could be available if needed as is standard practice.

      1. As far as I am aware, it is necessary that sessions only run if a helicopter is available. The trouble is that the regulations don’t specify that the helicopter has to be able to go anywhere, only be able to fly over the track. The helicopter could take off… …it just couldn’t be sure of landing where it needed to be. Which (as far as I can tell) makes the FIA within the regulations, albeit in the most pointless manner possible.

        I would, however, question whether it could be presumed that drivers had sufficient visibility to race (or, indeed, whether the marshals could see each other round the track – which is the other visibility-related mandatory stop condition) given that the ability of the helicopter to fly was so marginal. Remember the bad weather and approaching nightfall were both coming from the east, and if the combination had made the marshals unable to see each other in Turn 1, then the race should theoretically have been stopped, even if it could be proven that Turn 7’s visibility was fine in that moment.

  13. Agree with Alonso. Canopies it must be. Had Button been killed or become a vegetable I would have been completely gutted, especially after Bianchi and Schumacher (MS unrelated I know).

    1. @balue He is not saying canopy, he is saying canopy idea, and within the article it implies he is talking about some sort of head protection.

      As I mention in a post above, ask yourself why they haven’t shown us a full canopy, but rather the concepts Merc, Ferrari, and RBR have developed. A full canopy is way too problematic.

      1. Yeah, you’re right. Just look at the problems LMP1 cars have!

        1. @Jimmy Price I’m guessing there’s some sarcasm there. I guess there’s no problem slapping a canopy on an F1 car if you want an F1 car to look like a WEC car, but tell me how you slap one on a F1 car as it will appear to us this weekend?

      2. More likely, a full canopy would render F1 too close to LMP1 to justify it costing as much to be at the back of the former as the front of the latter, thus collapsing F1. The FIA would be no happier with F1 ceasing to exist due to financial implosion than with F1 ceasing to exist due to its becoming unbearably dangerous.

    2. I too agree with Alonso. If Button had been closer then he would have been killed. Also, if you look at the video you can see the drain cover breaks apart after the McLaren car hit it, and pieces of the drain cover flew through the air. One large piece was flying upwards at least two seconds after the crash, meaning the driver in any car within 4 seconds of the McLaren was in danger. There could have been several deaths from this one incident. A windshield of some description, like the “Red Bull canopy”, is a must because only a canopy like that would have prevented every one of those bits of debris from hitting a following driver.
      It would be great if there was some group of experts that could sit down and sort this issue out, but it seems like that is too difficult. This then creates a problem that someone will finally make a decision not based on what is best for the teams and the drivers, but best for politics, and the most likely motivator of that will be another lost life, or several lost lives.
      I’m sorry, but really this incident highlights a fundamental problem with F1: how many narrow escapes does it take to fix a problem? Does it actually need someone to loose their life over this simple matter? Many countries have Health and Safety laws, and these require the drivers be protected, so F1 will have to change, so why wait? Massa was nearly killed by something a windshield would have stopped, Jenson would have been killed if he’d been closer, and someone else would have been killed if there was a car 4 seconds behind his car. Maybe it is a bit late now for Monaco, but there isn’t any reason why they can’t be introduced at the Canadian GP. We constantly get this “But I can’t see the driver” nonsense! You can hardly see the driver anyway, not unless it is from a side view, a perspective that isn’t affected by a windshield. There were cars fitted with windshields at the first ever F1 race, so this isn’t a new idea.

      1. @drycrust I’m fine with whatever they do, but I think you are wrong to imply this is simple, and that there are not already experts working on this. Personally I question if the RBR aero screen is viable in that it must deflect a lot of air that goes into the air box and behind the cockpit area, so maybe the cars would have to change quite a bit to realistically employ that iteration. And I do continue to wonder about the worst case scenario of a car upside down and how well that aero screen would allow access to an unconscious driver needing head and neck stabilization before righting the car.

        1. @robbie Yes, there will always be scenarios and events that cause “life saving” devices to contribute to death or injury. The best you can do is to use safety devices that have a low probability of contributing to death or injury, and I think this is the case with this device. I don’t recall any F1 car having rolled and caught fire while I have been following the sport (from about 2000 onwards), although I can’t be sure it hasn’t happened. On the other hand, it is extremely common to have minor collisions between vehicles that result in debris flying through the air, and every couple of years is a more serious event like this one with the drain cover, or the suspension spring that hit Massa, or Webber’s wheel that nearly left tread marks on some poor driver’s helmet, so this event is actually a more serious version of a common problem.
          Regarding the air flow problem, this is an open wheel series, and tyres have a bigger resistance to air than a wind shield would, so I think the aerodynamic drag isn’t that important. Even if it was above 1% of the total drag of the car, as long as everyone has it then no one should be disadvantaged.
          I agree, it probably isn’t simple, but I don’t accept they couldn’t have had something in place for this season. At the minimum there should be a requirement for all teams to ensure drivers are protected from crash debris, and then leave them to sort out the fine details this year, so F1 can choose the best design next year and make it mandatory.
          If someone is killed in a circumstance such as what happened to Jenson Button then someone like Bernie or Jean Todt will make a decree that requires all cars to have some sort of debris protection just like the Red Bull canopy, but the design they choose will have more aerodynamic drag, more weight, and higher installation costs. Teams will then bemoan the way this was implemented saying they could have done a better job themselves, overlooking the fact they were given ample opportunity to do a better job and they didn’t want to.

  14. @robbie Ah but then I also meant ‘idea’ thinking canopy was the general term for screen covers.

  15. I’m with Fernando. A canopy/halo/aeroscreen seems inevitable for the future of Formula 1, but I’m just worried that F1 won’t bring it in until a driver gets killed as a result of flying debris. Why wait until that happens? I’d much rather have a canopy as a precautionary measure than a reactionary measure.

  16. Just watch the video of that thing flipping up. It was still traveling upward when the wing hit it. If it had continued upward it could have entered the cockpit like a 10 kg frisbee and the halo would have not done anything to protect Jenson or any other driver. Anything less than the screen concept is worthless.

    Oh, and what if that thing had hit the tire above its lateral axis? It would have been launched at a very high velocity to some random point in the principality. Good luck all you billionaires.

    1. I’ve watched the footage numerous times in slow motion, and it seems the drain cover was on its way down when Jenson hit it. Had he been closer to the Mercedes, the cover might have been higher in the air at the point of impact, which would have been much more dangerous. After the impact, the cover went out to the right (Jenson’s right) and out of the way, instead of up and over the car. Thankfully, it looks like the bits that flew over his head were from the front wing, and not the drain cover itself. This is not intended an argument for or against canopies, but merely an observation. Although personally, I feel this incident most of all highlights the need for stronger welding (maybe 4 welds was a couple too few on this piece) and more stringent inspections, rather than a change to the cars.

  17. I’ve read numerous articles about drainage covers being lifted up by racecars with several occurring in F1.
    Where’s the news here?

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