Free Practice 2 was a chaotic affair with several drivers trying to get to grips with the track after getting the first dry session. A number of drivers were spinning or going wide or making mistakes. But one incident took the cake, Romain Grosjean was involved in a spectacular accident where he exited Turn 12. The rear hit a loose drain on the kerb and from then on, he was just a passenger.
FIA F1 race director Charlie Whiting said “One of the drain covers, which measures about half a metre long and 30cm wide and heavy cast metal, came up. There are quite a few of them around the circuit and at this particular place, there are five at intervals on the outside of T12. That’s a high-G corner with massive load being put through, and what we have found is some of these drains are bolted down and some are welded down. Welding is perfectly acceptable. I suspect the bolts have probably broken and rather than replace the whole thing, they’ve thought, ‘we’ll weld it down’. Quite evidently, the welds just gave up. It’s as simple as that really. No one saw that coming.”
Whiting classified the accident as a ‘freak accident’. Ahead of Saturday’s running, circuit engineers will inspect every drain and strengthen them. Whiting said “I’m not sure how many there are – we’ve seen a few, but not that many. They will grind all the paint away, they will grind the welds back a bit and they will re-weld them.” Especially leading up to the Grand Prix, it is imperative that everything goes off without a hitch.
This kind of incident can stain the Sepang International Circuit’s reputation. Since this is Malaysia’s final F1 race, we can be sure that they would rather go out on a high.