Top 10: Motorsport’s drain pain greatest hits

The drain-inspired disaster that befell Williams Formula 1 racer George Russell today in free practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix is nothing new, as racing cars have been attacked by loose drain grates and manhole covers for years.

Top 10: Motorsport’s drain pain greatest hits

Here is our top 10 ‘greatest hits’ before today, starting with the F1 incidents of previous seasons…

Romain Grosjean, Malaysia 2017

The crashed car of Romain Grosjean, Haas F1 Team VF-17

The crashed car of Romain Grosjean, Haas F1 Team VF-17

Photo by: Sutton Images

The crashed car of Romain Grosjean, Haas F1 Team VF-17

The crashed car of Romain Grosjean, Haas F1 Team VF-17

Photo by: Sutton Images

When Romain Grosjean struck a lifted drain cover in the kerb at Turn 12 in Friday practice in Malaysia, his Haas suffered an immediate right-rear blowout that sent him spinning heavily into the barrier. The team later received compensation from the circuit.

Valtteri Bottas, Baku 2016

Valtteri Bottas, Williams FW38

Valtteri Bottas, Williams FW38

Photo by: Sutton Images

Baku first caught Williams out back in 2016. Valtteri Bottas was returning to the garage after an installation lap at the start of FP3 and hit a loose pitlane drain cover. He sat out the rest of the session while Williams repaired bodywork and radiator damage and examined the car's gearbox.

Jenson Button, Monaco 2016

Jenson Button, McLaren

Jenson Button, McLaren

Photo by: Steven Tee / LAT Images

During the first practice session in Monaco, a square inspection hatch measuring around 25cm x 25cm cracked and came loose on the exit of Ste Devote. It punctured Nico Rosberg's left rear tyre and hit the front-right corner of Jenson Button's McLaren, damaging the McLaren’s front wing, front suspension, brake intake and floor.

Rubens Barrichello, Monaco 2010

Manhole cover in Monte Carlo

Manhole cover in Monte Carlo

Photo by: Adam Cooper

Rubens Barrichello was running 10th in the 2010 Monaco Grand Prix when his Williams struck a loose manhole cover while taking a line close to the wall on the run up the hill from Ste Devote. The impact and resulting crash meant the car sustained significant damage. Adam Cooper snapped this shot from the scene (above).

Juan-Pablo Montoya, China 2005

Juan Pablo Montoya, (COL) McLaren MP4/20

Juan Pablo Montoya, (COL) McLaren MP4/20

Photo by: Sutton Images

McLaren driver Juan Pablo ran over a protruding drain cover with his right-front wheel at the exit of Turn 10 during the 2005 Chinese Grand Prix. He continued after returning to the pits for a new tyre but later retired with an engine problem.


And it’s not just F1 where drains have caused much pain…

DTM qualifying, Hockenheim 2017

 

 

During qualifying for the DTM season finale at Hockenheim, a loose drain on the left-hand side of the track before Turn 1 was struck by Paul di Resta’s Mercedes. It damaged the front-left of the Scot’s car, and forced the second phase of qualifying to be restarted as well. 

Ben Keating, Laguna Seca IMSA, 2015

#33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen

#33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen

Photo by: Brian Cleary

A drainage grate and piping was popped up by prototype cars running over it, and was then struck by Keating in his Dodge Viper. The impact ripped into the right-front corner of the car, with Keating saying it was like running through a “buzzsaw”. He subsequently sued the track owner for damages incurred.

Mark Winterbottom, Shanghai V8 Supercars, 2005

Mark Winterbottom, Orrcon Racing looks through the hole made in the floor of his Ford after running over a grill

Mark Winterbottom, Orrcon Racing looks through the hole made in the floor of his Ford after running over a grill

Photo by: Sutton Images

The Australian Supercars star struck an exposed drainage grate during the opening race of the weekend, which destroyed his car’s front splitter, radiator and engine sump. But, most scarily, it then gouged a huge hole in the floor downstream, just missing his seat, before slicing through a rollcage crossmember!

Bernd Maylander, Shanghai street circuit DTM, 2004

Bernd Maylander, AMG Mercedes Benz CLK DTM crashed against a dislodged manhole cover

Bernd Maylander, AMG Mercedes Benz CLK DTM crashed against a dislodged manhole cover

Photo by: Sutton Images

A two-part DTM invitational race was disrupted by the cancellation of the first leg after F1 safety car driver Bernd Maylander struck a manhole cover that had been dislodged by the cars ahead of him at the start of race one. His Mercedes was hurled into the air, and the damage put him out of the event entirely.

Jesus Pareja, Montreal WS-PC, 1990

 

 

In a WS-PC race at Montreal in October 1990 a manhole cover flipped up under a bridge after being dislodged. It was struck by the Spice of Fermin Velez and Courage-Porsche of Denis Morin before it sliced through the bottom of the chassis of the Brun Porsche 962 of Jesus Pareja, instantly starting a fire. Pareja managed to scramble free after his car came to a halt, but having been wearing an open face helmet, he suffered some burns. Our video (above) shows all the drama unravel. 

Additional reporting by Scott Mitchell, Edd Straw and Adam Cooper.

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