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Formula 1

What is causing the spate of loose drain covers in F1?

Two of the three days of pre-season testing have been hit by loose drain covers at Turn 11 bringing out red flags. What is causing the spate of issues?

red flag bahrain testing 2024
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It is important to note off the bat that the drain cover incidents in Bahrain pre-season testing are not the same as those which wrecked practice in Las Vegas.

In Vegas, the drain cover was not properly welded down and the suction of cars going over it lifted it, where it cost both Carlos Sainz and Esteban Ocon a chassis apiece.

That was unacceptable and Ferrari boss Frederic Vasseur has revealed that the team is still in negotiations over a settlement for the damage incurred.

But what we've seen in Bahrain on Days 2 and 3 of the test is not quite the same thing.

In Sakhir, the area of concern is Turn 11 with Charles Leclerc on Day 2 and Sergio Perez on Day 3 bringing up the cover on the right-hand side of the track, beyond the rumble strip.

Drivers have been swinging out wide on the entry to the corner to open it up and carry more speed through the left-hander - and over the drain gully that runs alongside the rumble strip.

Put simply, if the drivers weren't go so close to exceeding track limits there, it would not be a problem - but the fact they are means it is a problem and one that needs fixing, not just in Bahrain.

One reason that has been touted as a potential cause of the spate of drain cover issues recently has been that the increased suction from the floors created by the ground-effect rules is too strong and is ripping up drain covers, which was not a problem with previous generations of car.

It is also important to note that this has happened in Bahrain.

Usually, loose drain covers are encountered on street circuits such as Monaco, Baku, and indeed Las Vegas.

It has also happened in Malaysia in 2017 when an errant drain destroyed the Haas of Romain Grosjean.

But the Bahrain International Circuit is a top-class F1 venue that has not had a history of loose drain covers or any other track issues.

Both F1 and the FIA need to work together with tracks to ensure drain covers and other track infrastructure are secure to ensure this spate ends before another strikes.

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