Drain cover inspection, Bahrain, 2024

Verstappen, Leclerc and Hamilton call on F1 to act over drain cover failures

Formula 1

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Formula 1 drivers want more pre-event checks on drain covers around circuits following two failures during this week’s test.

Running was interrupted on Thursday and Friday for over an hour each time because drain covers had come loose at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Max Verstappen suspects the current generation of cars may be contributing to the spate of drain covers coming loose in recent seasons.

“With the ground effect cars, probably it’s a little bit worse,” he said. “But also it seems like we’re driving in places that not a lot of other cars are going, in terms of opening up corners.

“Maybe these kind of things can be checked a bit more. We know that this is a potential problem with these cars and when you go to certain tracks, you know where the drain covers are. So I guess before you start driving in the weekend [you need] to double-check that everything is solid.

“I think it’s a must for the upcoming tracks that we don’t have another situation where cars get destroyed. Especially with the budget cap in place as well, it’s not nice when these things happen.”

The disruption follows a serious incident in last year’s Las Vegas Grand Prix weekend when a loose track covering caused significant damage to Carlos Sainz Jnr’s Ferrari in the opening practice session, causing it to be cancelled.

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His team mate Charles Leclerc, who hit a loose drain on Thursday, agreed with Verstappen that more needed to be done to prevent further problems.

“It’s a serious issue, because it can have big consequences,” Leclerc said. “We have to look into it for the future, for it to not happen again.

“Yesterday we were quite lucky that it didn’t happen, in a place and in a situation similar to Vegas, but in Vegas, it was quite serious for Carlos. But I’m sure everybody’s on it and working on finding the best solution for that.”

Lewis Hamilton was involved in Thursday’s incident in Bahrain as his car ran over the loose cover Leclerc later hit on the approach to turn 11. Despite overnight repair work another cover came loose when running began this morning, which Sergio Perez ran over.

Hamilton also called for a more proactive approach to try and prevent more drains from being worked loose by cars driving over them. “It’s obviously a concern and I think, hopefully, the FIA on top of it,” he said.

“We probably need to be welding these things down in advance before us getting there. Fortunately it wasn’t like the one that Carlos hit, but we’ve definitely got to be on top of it.”

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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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17 comments on “Verstappen, Leclerc and Hamilton call on F1 to act over drain cover failures”

  1. Good. It seems the promoter nor the FIA are able to secure something so basic as fixing the drain covers, so now the most prominent drivers speak up.

    I guess it is actually pretty bad that it had to come to this. But thanks for speaking up clearly about this, it’s a farce.

    1. And a Mr. A . Newey is quoted elsewhere saying the problem is the cars are too big and too heavy.

      Perhaps the constant punishment inflicted on covers by these cars is now too much, and new standards need to be implemented,(or make the cars smaller and lighter). Previous years perhaps random shoddy work & inspection.

      IF the quote is correct and Newey is correct serious alterations generally would seem required across all circuits.

  2. Three ‘expert’ opinions – and not one of them came to the conclusion that they shouldn’t be driving there. Especially after it happened the day before.
    Who would have guessed…

    In terms of loads these covers are put under – they are truly massive. The stresses placed on them are not something any of these circuits (more than 10 years old) needed to be designed for.

    Again, like so many other problems – this is almost entirely an F1-specific thing, and downforce is the main culprit.
    Get rid of it. They make too much of it.

  3. It’s kinda shocking that the technology of such a critical element of a racing track isn’t regulated by FIA.
    You’d think that “Grade One” homologation level had it covered…

    1. It is, and it isn’t. I think the regulations say they “must be secure”, but the standard is a bit vague, as with many of the FIA’s rules.

      I suspect that Charlie Whiting had his own standard, which wasn’t written down.

    2. To be fair, racing cars are frequently producing greater down force, ground effect and grip over time so coming up with a singular solution is going to be hard.

      1. thats what ISO/IPC/ICC is for abd if there is an insufficient code for securing drainage, the fia needs to afford a few engineers to draw up a few alternative methods which suite different types of sewer configurations. then grade the methods, then test the methods, then finalize drafts abd submit.

        at the very least there needs to be a street cleaner with a huge fan which can sufficiently test in the interim.

  4. You’d think so right, any of these drivers could be disqualified for something as mundane as a bit of loose bodywork for safety reasons… F1 and the FIA make a big show of safety, when it suits them. But as always, they can’t judge their own homework.

    Leave it to the drivers to make the comments saying it’s not good enough.

    1. And risk a fine for damaging the F1 brand or whatever while they’re at it I’m sure…

  5. Massa got knocked unconscious when a relatively small spring hit his helmet. These heavy metal drain covers, if lifted by a preceding car, come into contact with a drivers helmet, they’re dead on the spot.

    This should be the utmost priority to come up with a proper solution and get it rolled out to every upcoming track.

    1. That “relatively small” spring weighed around 1 kg, or 2.2 pounds– but your point is valid.

      1. Drain covers usually weigh more than a kilo (the lightest I’ve seen is 3 kg, and a cover rated for this sort of force will be considerably heavier), so “relatively” is the correct comparison term.

    2. If I recall correctly a damage drain cover at Shanghai tore out the underside of Montoya’s McLaren once, narrowly missing his seat. That would make a spring to the head look like nothing.

  6. Your header photograph is exactly the same as roadworks here in Melbourne – many people standing around while one is doing the job.
    Surely, there is enough technology in these times to properly secure drain covers.
    Formula One is sinking lower and lower.

    1. Your header photograph is exactly the same as roadworks here in Melbourne – many people standing around while one is doing the job.

      Not a patch on the old PMG days. That many standing round but an equal number jostling with on-duty cops for a spot propping up the public bar at the nearest pub.

  7. Andretti is not good enough for this championship? Better for him, because joining F1 seems to be the same as joining a suicide squad recently. They will kill someone with the lack of investment in securing the freakin’ drain covers. What about the high standards now? Yes, this can happen. It can happen once, it mustn’t happen twice, but third and forth time already…? Twice in the same event? Did someone (at the very top) lose his job over this? The moral thing would be to resign, whoever is in charge of safety and track inspection, at the very least. But Domenicalli could go too (where are your big words now?). I don’t see an appropriate reaction, or at least some lowest level of remorse over being so incompetent.

  8. the standard for drain covers is clearly inadequate. the fia need to hire someone who knows how to use a calculator.

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