Drain cover inspection, Bahrain, 2024

Leclerc goes quickest, then hits loose drain cover as session ends early

Formula 1

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Charles Leclerc was quickest in an interrupted early session on day two of the pre-season test in Bahrain cut short by a loose drain cover.

The Ferrari driver was the only one to get within the 1’31s as the second day of running at the Bahrain International Circuit began.

However, the early session was ended early after a drain cover came loose on the approach to turn 11 and was struck by Leclerc and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton. Some of the lost time will recovered as the evening session has been extended by an hour. It will now begin at 2pm local time, when the early session was originally scheduled to finish.

After Max Verstappen and George Russell ran the entire first day on Wednesday, their respective team mates Sergio Perez and Hamilton took over today. Perez set the first time of the day with a 1’40.323 on the C2 compound, which was immediately beaten by Hamilton by more than a second.

Only the RB team did not venture out immediately as the session began. After covering fewer laps than any driver who participated in the opening day, Sargeant was eager to make up for time lost and he delivered the first significant time with a 1’33.561 on the C3 compound. Leclerc ‘s first push lap on the same tyre was a 1’31.822, faster than any driver from the first day besides pace setter Verstappen.

Perez’s early running was hampered by overheating brakes, where a reported brake fire resulted in him returning to the Red Bull garage for repairs. However, within half an hour, Perez was back out on track.

Leclerc improved his own best time to a 1’31.750, with Piastri getting closest to the Ferrari of the nine others. However, the majority of the field did not come close to their best times from the first day of running, indicating single-lap performance was not a priority for many.

Just after the mid point of the session, running was halted by a red flag due to a drain cover coming loose on the outside kerbing on the approach to turn 11. Leclerc initially appeared to dislodge the cover by taking a wide approach to turn 11, then Hamilton struck the debris before Leclerc came around again and did the same, triggering FIA race director Niels Wittich to suspend the session.

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Both Leclerc and Hamilton returned to the pits as their teams conducted checks and repairs on their cars as Wittich headed to the scene of the incident to conduct a track investigation. Almost 40 minutes later, the FIA announced that the early session would not be resumed.

With the early session ending early, Leclerc’s 1’31.750 put him on top of the timing screen, half a second ahead of Piastri. Sargeant was third fastest for Williams, less than a second slower than Leclerc’s best, with Perez fourth in the Red Bull. Alonso posted the fifth-fastest time ahead of Hamilton, with Zhou, Gasly, Hulkenberg and Tsunoda completing the order.

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Lando Norris, Lance Stroll, Esteban Ocon, Alexander Albon, Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas and Kevin Magnussen are all set to take over their respective cars from their team mates in the second session. They will each likely benefit from an additional hour of running due to the revised schedule.

2024 Formula 1 pre-season Bahrain test – Day two, session one times:

Pos.Car numberDriverTeamModelBest timeGapLaps
116Charles LeclercFerrariSF-241’31.75036
281Oscar PiastriMcLarenMCL381’32.3280.57835
32Logan SargeantWilliamsFW461’32.5780.82830
411Sergio PerezRed BullRB201’32.8791.12920
514Fernando AlonsoAston MartinAMR241’33.0531.30331
644Lewis HamiltonMercedesW151’33.2251.47539
724Guanyu ZhouSauberC441’33.7151.96538
810Pierre GaslyAlpineA5241’33.8042.05433
927Nico HulkenbergHaasVF-241’37.5095.75931
1022Yuki TsunodaRBRB011’38.0746.32440

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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16 comments on “Leclerc goes quickest, then hits loose drain cover as session ends early”

  1. Coventry Climax
    22nd February 2024, 10:49

    Wasn’t something promised after the Vegas debacle? What was it again? Something in the line of learning from mistakes?
    Seems they’re applying that learning very locally, which is rather silly for a global sports.

    Let’s be clear about this: These are potentially lethal mistakes.
    I thought the FiA had safety high up in their standards?

    Anyway, it’s obviously bad for any team, but sorry to see it hit Ferrari again. Maybe this hastens the handling of their -in my opinion fully justified- Vegas damage claim.

    1. And don’t forget, this is a permanent circuit, not a one off street circuit.

    2. Wasn’t something promised after the Vegas debacle?

      While the situation was dangerous, it was different.
      In Vegas the drain cover was in the track, located where the cars could be expected to be driving.

      This time the drain cover is in the outside edge of the red/white kerb, which is not where drivers are expected to be driving.
      Track limits discussion anyone?

      1. If you insist… based on the current rules of ine wheel within or touching the white line, Leclerc was within his rights to drive there.
        The argument is if you agree with this definition or not.

        1. If you insist… based on the current rules of ine wheel within or touching the white line, Leclerc was within his rights to drive there.

          Simply stated, I don’t. It’s too fluffy/nebulous to be a proper definition.
          Paint the line wherever, put pressure sensors in the line, ensure the drivers get instantaneous feedback on the contact, penalise any contact.
          Could it be any simpler?
          I do appreciate that it doesn’t have the “shiny, shiny” appeal to the FIA that “AI” has, even though their proposed position prediction is alpha test level at best.

      2. Coventry Climax
        22nd February 2024, 12:14

        They design, construct and place barriers such that in an eventuality, driver safety -waayyy outside the racing line- isn’t compromised.
        So for draincovers, it’s OK if they’re there, loose and all, ready to be projected onto cars and drivers, as long as they’re outside of the race line?

        Sorry SteveP, that’s not an argument, it’s too ridiculous to even be mentioned.

        1. From the text of the story the cover was hit 3 times in total in two laps by two drivers.

          Hamilton fan that I am, I still question why he (and Leclerc) were so far out multiple times. Hitting the same cover so often suggests they are aiming for that spot. Multiple hits are most likely the root cause of the problem.
          Yes, the cover being loose is dangerous, but as I said it isn’t the same as the Vegas situation where the offending cover was in the track

          Define the white line as the limit, paint it where you can insert a pressure sensor, beep the driver and race control when the line is touched, stick the drains outside the line so they stand much less chance of being hit multiple times and breaking.

  2. I don’t get, what are they trying to hide? Double diffuser or what?

  3. As Leclerc caused the red flag, will he lose his best time?

    1. Coventry Climax
      22nd February 2024, 11:05

      ;-)
      But only if the stewards decide(!) he did it on purpose, which actually stands quite a decent chance, as Ferrari have done it twice now.

    2. Ferrari drivers cause a lot of red flags all over the world. No problem with that

    3. Good point there EuroBrun / Coventry Climax

      1. Coventry Climax
        22nd February 2024, 15:33

        @bascb
        I can only speak for myself, but it wasn’t meant as a ‘good point’. There’s no laptimes to lose in testing.
        Tried to make a bit of fun of the FiA and the whole situation, but actually this is all too sad for words.

  4. It’s reasonable to expect that as teams derive more and more downforce from under the cars’ floors, this sort of thing will happen more often.
    Nobody is making it happen deliberately, and all reasonable precautions are being taken.
    And as noted above – what is a car doing there anyway? Stay on the track.

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