FIA opts for no-nonsense fix on Bahrain drain cover issues

Thomas Maher
Officials examine loose drain during Bahrain pre-season testing.

The FIA is set for a no-nonsense approach to fixing the drain cover issues in Bahrain.

The drain cover issues that affected two days of track action during pre-season testing won’t happen in next week’s Grand Prix.

The FIA is set to tackle the issue of wayward drain covers with a blunt-force approach for next week’s Grand Prix weekend at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Two of the three days of pre-season testing at the circuit were disrupted following long red-flag stoppages and track inspections that resulted in altered schedules and run plans for the teams.

FIA turns to cement mixers in a bid to fix drain cover issues

Rather than experimenting with stronger welds or finding alternative fixing means for the offending drain, the FIA is set to fill in the drain with concrete, with the hole then painted over to blend into the circuit surface.

Every drain around the circuit is set for inspection, and possible filling, in order to ensure more issues aren’t encountered during next weekend’s race. understands the FIA is evaluating a process that may involve some drain covers being filled with concrete in order to retain or gain the Grade 1 rating circuits must have in order to host an FIA-sanctioned F1 race.

Drain cover issues have become slightly more prevalent in recent times, due to the regulation changes in 2022 that saw the cars move to a ground-effect aerodynamic formula that creates massive suction effect as they drive at speed.

In November, Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari was torn apart just seven minutes into the first practice session at the new Las Vegas circuit as a water valve cover was pulled up and ripped into his car – resulting in his immediate stoppage and him taking a grid penalty for new components, despite Ferrari and Sainz being blameless.

It was Ferrari again who suffered on the second day of the Bahrain test, when Charles Leclerc’s car loosened the drain approaching Turn 10 – Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton also striking the drain a few seconds later.

While Mercedes escaped damage, Leclerc’s car needed a new floor, while the lunch hour break was rescheduled to allow the circuit repair work to continue without disrupting further testing time.

The following day, the same drain caused issues again as Sergio Perez pulled the cover loose – leading to another red flag and over an hour’s stoppage. The lunch break hour was duly cancelled as a result, in order to hand time back to the teams. recommends

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Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen weigh on on drain cover issues

Having been understandably very annoyed by his Las Vegas incident, Carlos Sainz said it’s high time the situation regarding drain cover complaints is addressed.

“Looks like the regulations have not changed,” he told media, including

“These things will keep happening and people will keep getting unfair penalties.

“After what happened in Vegas, it should be a must to change [the rule]. Like always, one team cannot agree with the other and there’s always political things and things going on when F1 teams don’t agree.”

Max Verstappen said the problem is perhaps becoming more evident at tracks where issues haven’t been obvious before, due to the positioning of the ground-effect cars and the lines being taken around a given circuit.

“With the ground effect cars, for me, it’s a little bit worse,” he said. “But it also seems like we’re driving in places that not a lot of other cars are going in terms of opening up corners and stuff. But maybe these kinds 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, to double check that everything is solid I think it is a must for the upcoming tracks.

“We don’t [want to] have another situation where cars get destroyed and especially with the budget cap in place as well. It’s not nice when these things happen.”

Asked for his opinion on the matter, former senior engineer turned new team boss at Haas Ayao Komatsu said there’s no excuse for the issue to keep happening.

“We’ve seen enough problems, I think,” he said.

“So we’ve really got to solve it. It’s not something we should be seeing repeatedly. Clearly, we’ve seen issues in Vegas and we saw it yesterday and today (sic).

“So yeah, we should just get on with improving the solution so that it doesn’t happen again.”

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