Verstappen calls on F1 tracks to 'double-check' safety after loose drain cover stops testing again

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SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) — Max Verstappen called for Formula 1 venues to “double-check” the safety of objects around the track after a loose drain cover interrupted preseason testing for the second day running Friday.

The cover flew up when Verstappen's Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez drove over a curb, causing a red-flag stoppage to the morning session after just half an hour amid repairs and an inspection of the area.

Carlos Sainz Jr.’s Ferrari was badly damaged by a water valve cover in practice for the Las Vegas Grand Prix in November, underlining the risks.

Defending F1 champion Verstappen said the issue might be made worse by the ground-effect aerodynamics introduced in 2022, where the floor is shaped to generate grip against the track surface.

“Before you start driving on the weekend, to double-check that everything is solid, I think, is a must for the upcoming tracks, so that we don’t have another situation where cars get destroyed," Verstappen said. "Especially with the budget cap in place as well, it’s not nice when these things happen.”

Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, Sainz's teammate, was one of the drivers who hit another loose drain cover Thursday. The cover shattered in that incident, scattering debris and leaving Ferrari to check his car's floor for damage.

“It’s a serious issue because it can have big consequences,” Leclerc said. “We have to look into it for the future for it to not happen again. Because yesterday we were quite lucky that it didn’t happen in a place and in a situation similar to Vegas, but in Vegas it was quite serious for Carlos.”

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AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing