Formula 1’s race director Charlie Whiting believes a welding failure led to the drain cover coming lose during second practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix, which ultimately led to Romain Grosjean hitting it and suffering a high-speed crash into the barriers.
The Frenchman was just a passenger as the drain cover punctured his tyre and caused him to spin across the gravel trap and into the barriers, but although he was unharmed, the damage to his car was severe, and due to ‘force majeure’, the FIA have allowed the Haas F1 Team to break curfew.
Whiting went straight to the scene of the incident immediately, and found the damaged drain cover was welded rather than bolted down, and as a result of the high G-forces of the 2017 machines around corners, it became loose and ultimately sprung up to damage Grosjean’s car.
“One of the drain covers, which measures about half a metre long and 30cm wide and heavy cast metal, came up,” said Whiting to Motorsport.com. “There are quite a few of them around the circuit and at this particular place, there are five at intervals on the outside of T12.
“That’s a high-G corner with massive load being put through, and what we have found is some of these drains are bolted down and some are welded down.
“Welding is perfectly acceptable. I suspect the bolts have probably broken and rather than replace the whole thing, they’ve thought, ‘we’ll weld it down’.
“Quite evidently, the welds just gave up. It’s as simple as that really. No one saw that coming.”
Whiting, who revealed that it was likely to be a freak incident, says all of the drains that have been welded down will be inspected ahead of Saturday’s running in Malaysia.
“I’m not sure how many there are – we’ve seen a few, but not that many,” said Whiting. “They will grind all the paint away, they will grind the welds back a bit and they will re-weld them.
“That’s all we can do. The drains are not the latest technology.”