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Filling Bahrain drains with concrete being considered for F1 2024's first race

The Bahrain circuit drains that have caused major disruption to Formula 1 pre-season testing could be filled in with concrete to avoid the problem disrupting 2024's season opener, Autosport understands.

Marshalls and Race control work to fix a loose drain cover

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

The three-day test at the Sakhir International Circuit has been stopped twice due to the drain cover on the approach to the track’s Turn 11 coming loose.

This is due to the powerful underfloor aerodynamics of the new ground-effect machines straining drains and their concrete surrounds as the cars pass over them at certain points.

At this particular point of the Bahrain track, the racing line the drivers are using involves swinging right for the left-hand corner so they can widen the angle and carry more speed in, while also reducing stress on their tyres at this high-energy venue and its tyre-heating abrasive surface.

This line brings them nearly fully onto the Turn 11 approach kerbs, running over the drains before the drivers finally sweep in to complete the penultimate corner of the middle sector.

Towards the end of the first session on the test’s second day, the drain cover lifted so much it was struck by Charles Leclerc and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who was following his soon-to-be Ferrari team-mate.

After the completion of repairs initially overseen by FIA F1 race director Niels Wittich that eventually led to a 90-minute delay, the second day restarted with a second session that began an hour earlier than planned so the lost time could be regained by the teams.

Then on day three on Friday, after just 27 minutes of the opening session, the Turn 11 drain was again sucked loose when Red Bull’s Sergio Perez traversed the approach kerbs.

This led to a similar one hour, 15-minute delay before the final day of pre-season action resumed with a new timetable to keep the cars circulating without a planned break until the expected 7pm cutoff.

The drain issues have caused the only real red flag stoppages of the test, with the third such interruption at the end of day two a planned check of the various timing systems deployed by F1 and the FIA.

Marshalls and Race control work to fix a loose drain cover

Marshalls and Race control work to fix a loose drain cover

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

But with F1 set to stay in Bahrain for 2024’s first race next week, the issue of the drains possibly interrupting the season’s first meaningful action is a major concern for all of the championship’s stakeholders.

F1 is just three months on from its Las Vegas return beginning in shambolic and – for Ferrari, after Carlos Sainz’s 2023 car was had much of its chassis and engine destroyed in the incident – costly circumstances when concrete reattaining a water valve cover on the city’s famous Strip failed and the cover was also sucked loose.

Autosport understands that after the Bahrain test concludes on Friday, circuit contractors will fill in drains around the course with concrete in an attempt to avoid the cover lifting problem at next week’s GP.

This solution can be implemented because the long-term weather forecast indicates no rain will hit the race weekend – a problem encountered dramatically by Formula 2 and Formula 3 teams when they were testing here just two weeks ago.

But it has been suggested there are alternative ways to avoid the problem that are also being concurrently assessed.

The FIA is understood to be examining footage of the test and previous F1 race and test events in Bahrain to see if the drivers are regularly pushing the track limits at Turn 11 more than they used to.

Rewatching Max Verstappen’s pole-winning lap from the 2023 Bahrain event, it’s clear that line was in use previously, rather than being adopted for the 2024 test.

The governing body, which in testing is involved in an advisory capacity rather than to enforce any rules, could also opt to repaint and move the white line track limit at this spot for next week’s GP to mean the drivers are prevented from running over it at all.

A similar solution was implemented at the 2023 Qatar GP when Pirelli’s tyres were unable to stand repeated blows from certain kerbs at high-speed.

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