Formula 1 race director Michael Masi says the drain collapse which delayed the start of qualifying for the Portuguese Grand Prix was due to a failure which hadn’t previously been seen.
The final practice session was red-flagged after Sebastian Vettel ran over a drain cover at turn 14, which lifted up. The cover was initially believed to have failed, but further investigation revealed concrete underneath it which had given way.
“It wasn’t actually the drain cover,” Masi explained, “it was actually the concrete case underneath collapsed. And then what we saw sticking up was the drain cover itself.”
Practice was halted with less than a minute remaining so repairs could begin. Other drains around the circuit were also checked.
This work was not completed in time for the start of qualifying, which had to be postponed by half an hour.
“As soon as it was noticed, practice three was obviously suspended and didn’t continue and a repair was undertaken in that area,” said Masi. “Further checks were undertaken for a number of other drains at exactly the same point in time.
“It’s something we haven’t really seen before, a collapse of that nature, certainly. So we checked all the other drains with all of the officials around the circuit was – [that] the most efficient way to get that done.
“There were a couple of other cracks that were identified and repaired immediately. And obviously where the drain itself was at turn 14 on the left-hand side repair was undertaken. [We put] plastic pipe in, filled it with concrete, and then a quick-set concrete on top of that, trying to get that dry as quick as possible.
“So that meant a slight delay to qualifying. But in the circumstances, better to have that done and everything else checked.”
The Algarve circuit had been resurfaced and renovated ahead of Formula 1’s first race weekend at the Portuguese circuit. Masi suspects the high levels of downforce generated by F1 cars led to the collapse.
“We don’t realise, probably appreciate the forces that F1 cars generate,” he said. “Certainly ‘unforeseen’ is probably the best way to put it, considering the circuit’s had a significant number of upgrades done to it for this event, including the entire resurfacing of the circuit, as well as a number of safety barrier upgrades.
“All of the drains were also checked the same point in time. But the fact is we’ve got a casing cracking.”
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