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F1 Bahrain Manhole Issues

F1 Teams Battle Manhole Issues in Bahrain Testing

23/02/2024

F1 teams faced repeated issues with loose manhole covers during winter testing in Bahrain, echoing last year’s problems in Las Vegas.

Just like in Las Vegas last year, manhole covers caused serious inconvenience to F1 teams during the winter testing in Bahrain.

Yesterday, testing had to be halted in the morning following damage to the underbody of Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari. Unluckily, following Carlos Sainz’s incident in Las Vegas, the Scuderia seems to be out of luck with manholes…

And this Friday, a red flag had to be waved again after a cover came loose. To make up for the lost time, the lunch break was eliminated.

The issue is naturally a concern – as F1 will race on this same track at Sakhir next week for the year’s first Grand Prix.

For Max Verstappen, if F1 is facing so many issues with the manhole covers, it’s not just because of the tracks themselves; but also due to the current configuration of the cars.

“With these ground-effect cars, it’s a bit worse, but it also seems like we’re driving in places where not many other cars pass – we’re widening the trajectories in corners.”

“We know it’s a potential issue with these cars, and when you go to certain tracks, you know where the manhole covers are. Before starting to drive on each circuit, it’s therefore essential to check that everything is solid – to avoid another situation where cars are destroyed.”

“Especially with the budget cap in place, it’s not pleasant when these kinds of things happen.”

Reflecting his driver’s view, Adrian Newey also criticizes the current generation of cars, not to his liking.

“The cars are too big and too heavy. That’s why this keeps happening.”

A new underbody for Ferrari

Charles Leclerc revealed the extent of the damage on his SF-24: enough to necessitate a change of underbody…

Indeed, not welcome in a period of budget caps, Ferrari starts already at a slight disadvantage…

“For me, there was a hole in the floor. It wasn’t huge, but it needed to be changed (the underbody). I wasn’t warned. I saw something on track, but honestly, it was so thin I thought it was some plastic stuff. We sometimes see them around the track and we run over them without anything happening, but this time, it was obviously metal, which damaged the car a bit more.”

“It’s a serious issue because it can have significant consequences. We need to look into this problem in the future to prevent it from happening again. We were lucky it didn’t happen in a place and situation like Vegas. But in Vegas, it was quite serious for Carlos.”

“Today, I’m sure everyone is working to find the best solution.”

Lewis Hamilton was involved in Thursday’s incident in Bahrain when his car drove over the cover that Leclerc later hit approaching turn 11. Hamilton also called for a more proactive approach to prevent more covers from being loosened by the cars driving over them.

“It’s obviously a concern and I hope the FIA will take care of it. We’ll probably have to weld these things in advance before arriving at a circuit. Fortunately, it wasn’t like the one Carlos hit in Vegas, but we absolutely have to be vigilant.”

Like his peers, Logan Sargeant from Williams is thus calling for better surveillance by the FIA.

“I’m sure good checks are done on the covers. But I’m also sure that we don’t normally expect to have problems of this kind here in Bahrain, a track that normally has no problem – and we’ve had two interruptions because of manhole covers.”

“I think this is largely due to the fact that there’s such a powerful ground effect, the cars are like sucked towards their underbodies. So they need to be better secured.”

A solution found by next week

By the Grand Prix, a solution should fortunately be found by the promoters: concrete could be poured around the covers.

For this, it should not rain before next Friday, but that’s fine: it’s not expected in the Bahraini desert…

F1 Teams Battle Manhole Issues in Bahrain Testing. F1 Teams Battle Manhole Issues in Bahrain Testing

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