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/