Drain cover did cause Barrichello crash

A normal lap from Kubica (above) and Liuzzi behind Barrichello

When I found the drain cover on Monday, it was not welded down

Following an investgation instigated by this writer Williams has confirmed that Rubens Barrichello’s crash in Monaco was caused when the left rear wheel was struck by a loose drain cover on the run up the hill from Ste Devote.

FIA race director Charlie Whiting has asked the Automobile Club de Monaco for an explanation of how such a worrying occurence could take place, given that the track is inspected each morning.

My own suspicions were first aroused when I asked Tonio Liuzzi, who was following Rubens, what he had seen of the crash. To my surprise he told me that for several laps he had seen something flipped up at trackside by the Brazilian, who was running unusually close to the barrier. On the final occasion, the Williams spun out of control.

“I was behind Rubens,” he said. “It was pretty weird. I saw already two times before he was going really close the left guardrail and there was something lifting from the ground, then once I saw this thing lifting completely and I saw Rubens flying into the wall. I thought he touched the left wall, this is what appeared to me.

“Something was lifting from the ground when a car was going that close to the left wall. He was always going really close to the left wall and there was this thing on the floor.”

I reported his words to Patrick Head and Frank Williams at the team’s motorhome. However, they were initially sceptical as the drain cover that caused the third safety car, and which had been reported on the timing screens, was further up the hill, more or less where Rubens had slid to halt.  The team subsequently put out a press release saying that Rubens had spun as the result of a suspension failure, which the team in effect took responsibility for, pending any new information about an alternative cause.

However before leaving Monaco on Monday I went to the scene of Barrichello’s crash, and just before it found a drain cover exactly where Liuzzi had said that he’d seen something. What’s more, it was possible to lift it up, as it was no longer welded shut.

I duly sent my photos to Patrick and Williams technical director Sam Michael, together with Liuzzi’s testimony, and later I forwarded some screenshots from Liuzzi’s car, which had supplied by a reader of this blog who saw my original story on Monday night.

The evidence changed the direction of the investigation. Having found no fatigue fractures, Williams asked FOM for recordings of on-board footage from both the cars Liuzzi and Rubens.

Meanwhile I had also called FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting, who knew nothing of this second drain cover. After I sent him my photos he went to view it for himself and was surprised to find that it was indeed loose. Whiting and Michael discussed the issue when thet met at yesterday’s Technical Working Group meeting.

A team statement on Friday said: “Following an investigation, AT&T Williams confirmed today that the cause of Rubens Barrichello’s crash at the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday 16 May 2010 was a loose manhole cover at Turn 2.  As Rubens’ car drove over the manhole cover, the cover was spun up and hit the rear left wheel, causing failure.  The car was badly damaged in the ensuing crash which ended Rubens’ race.  This incident has been reported to the FIA.”

The mystery is how the heavy cover could have dropped back into place after being hit each time without any marshals noticing it. It’s possible that a marshal replaced it during the safety car period for Barrichello’s accident, but it seems unlikely that could have happened without race control being informed. Whiting has asked the ACM (the Monaco club) if any marshals have any more information.

It remains to be seen whether the FIA takes the matter further.

Monday’s original story can be found here: https://adamcooperf1.com/2010/05/17/did-loose-drain-cover-contribute-to-barrichello-crash/


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29 responses to “Drain cover did cause Barrichello crash

  1. Mark

    Well done Adam. Now that you’ve solved that mystery, can you help me find my keys please?

  2. Knuckles

    Wait a minute, FOM has HD in-car footage?!

    • Well that’s what Williams asked for, maybe they just made an assumption!

      • if it turns out that they have HD, the anger I will experience will be excessive!! It would also be another example of how F1 fans are treated like crap

      • I don’t think it’s a conspiracy, just an expression Sam Michael used. I guess ‘high quality’ would have done just as well!

      • Fergal

        I remember hearing at the start of the year that FOM are indeed shooting in HD this season, however only for testing purposes, before offering to broadcasters commercially next year.

        This was either a direct quote from Bernie/FOM, or from Jake’s blog on the BBC site, IIRC…

        God knows why they need an entire season to test this kind of thing – it’s almost decade old technology, but the world would be a duller place if it wasn’t for the mysteries of FOM…

    • F1 is being filmed in HD this year, but not being broadcast in HD:


      But I’m rather more concerned that the race was allowed to continue despite a manhole cover being loose.

      • Knuckles

        I thought that the track cameras have been in HD for a while, but I didn’t know about in-car. Anyway, it’s time they used whatever they have got, no?

        As for being more concerned about any one thing, I’m old enough to be able to be concerned and annoyed about several things at the same time 🙂

  3. Aluizio Coelho

    Good job Adam!! This will
    inhance safety for next time
    around Monaco, if not for all

  4. RAEckart

    In the photo, you can see the tack welds at the four corners. Don’t know if they were from this year’s race or last year. They look light enough to have failed easily.

  5. mrseviltedi

    Well done Adam on finding evidence…i’ve been keeping an eye on how this story has developed

  6. Even before Williams confirmed this I wanted to write you a note saying that this story has been the essence of great reporting!

    Well done, I felt like I was part of it with you with your little updates

  7. Agreed. Nice work Mr. Cooper.

    With an incident like this one, I wonder out loud, who is liable to the Williams Team, for destroying a perfectly good car, engine, and transmission?

    • Thanks everyone, it’s always interesting when something crops up and you can make a difference, as it were. Last time I stuck my nose in and tried to get the truth out there was with Hamilton/Trulli in Australia last year, and not everyone was happy with the outcome! This time at least it’s ultimately drawn everyone’s attention to a safety matter, and that’s no bad thing. I am sure Williams are not too happy but they just have to accept it as normal racing damage. One thing that surprised me was the way forums such as Autosport.com barely touched on this, even after my first story. I would have thought more fans would have taken an interest. Oh well…

      • If I was in a position at Williams, I would not write this off as a racing incident.

        I would be looking for compensation.

        This would include the car, I would want a buy on an engine, and a buy on a drive train, as it relates to the allotment that all the Teams receive for the season.

        In addition, Mr. Barrichello is in need of some physiological assistance to recover from this traumatic incident.

        You just do not drive down the road, at high speed, and then blow up the way that car did, without getting a little messed up inside.

        I would want compensation for that as well… From the FIA…

        As for Autosport.com barely touching on this story. They will… Give it a little more time.

        If they do not, it is obvious that we are the fans… They are not.


  8. Just to clarify about Autosport.com, I meant I was surprised that the fans on the forum did not take it further, for some reason it didn’t seem to interest or intrigue people, unlike the steering wheel saga!

    • My point exactly. I remember throwing a Controller of a Game Console, the length of the cord, after I blew the engine, in a race. Way too many RPM before the shift changes, in a game…

      The point is, that is just human nature. Mr. Barrichello reacted like any other normal human would have.

      The story is why, with a heart rate over 180 beats per minute, Mr. Barrichello’s car pinballed the retaining wall numberous times and stopping on the track in taters,.. (and then he threw the wheel.)

      You are correct. The story is the manhole cover.

      The Mercedes scandal on the final lap is a racing incident, and nothing more.

      The Williams incident is news, and good for you to pursue it, Mr. Cooper.

    • Mr. Cooper,

      I still have not received an answer on this, in the politics of the FIA dance.

      Who is liable for the Williams Team complete car? All the components.

      There has to be compensation for this safety oversight.

      • Motor racing is human just like you and me. Life isn’t about compensation! I’m sure Williams is more concerned about the speed of their car in Turkey

      • Ben

        Jumpy Bob – American by chance? something happens SUE SUE SUE!!!

        And I’m sure Rubens isn’t psychologically damaged by this, its the same accident as any mech failure, and if every driver was damaged by a mech failure, every driver on the grid would be a raving loony.

        Was Buemi rendered a dribbling mess crouched in the corner after his front wheels came off his car slapstick-comedy style? When Raikonnen’s front suspension literally exploded at the Nurburgring 2005 due to a front tyre failure did he become incapable of driving above 20mph? What about Hamilton at Spain this year? The list goes on.

        Do teams seek compensation whenever another car crashes into theirs? Of course not.

      • Wow, it takes 4 days to get the reply to me.


        My intent is not to sue anyone. However, if I was a race track owner, street circuit or not. And I had to sign off on the safety aspect of that course to the FOM, and the FIA.

        During the race, it is determined that a safety element was overlooked, my question is, am I as the track owner, liable for any damages that this oversight caused?

        This is not a racing accident.

        On the by, no, I am not American. I am just curious on the legalities of this type of incident, as it relates to racing, in general.

  9. kateafan

    Thanks for an intriguing and very well researched piece. have enjoyed following this. But it seems people can’t get enough of a Schumi scandal.

  10. Great piece of investigative journalism! I thought I saw two marshalls on track in that area on TV for a moment when the safety car was out, but as no-one followed it up, I thought I must have been wrong. Keep up the good work!

  11. mt

    ‘Hear-hear’, Mr. Cooper. Too many of the F1 reporters have become used to “press releases, pre-planned conferences, etc handed to them by the FIA & will seldom go “digging” for a story for us fans. Stay young at heart. It pays dividends, it truly does.

    Happy Trails,

  12. Tim

    Excellent investigating and excellent reporting! It is a little distrubing that something like a manhole cover could be missed during a track inspection. Hopefully this will not happen again.


  13. I note that Williams’ press release fails to thank you, merely saying there was “an investigation”. Meanies!

  14. Jota

    Ok, one more “well done” to you!!
    A perfect goal!!

    Your blog is now a little more up on my bookmarks!! hehe

    But if the FIA or someone else does not compensate Williams for the damage, I will remember one more time how F1 people are just pure hypocrites…

    That’s why I don’t watch F1 anymore!!
    (by the way, did you notice the Race Control and streaming video on Indycar’s website?? It’s awesome!)

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