Motor racing-Loose drain cover damages Ferrari floor, halts F1 testing

Formula One F1 - Pre-Season Testing - Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain - February 22, 2024 Ferrari's Charles Leclerc during testing REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

(Reuters) - Formula One testing in Bahrain was halted on Thursday after Charles Leclerc's Ferrari was damaged by a drain cover that came loose.

Ferrari said the floor of the new SF-24 car had been changed after the incident during the morning session at the Sakhir circuit.

The session was stopped -- the first red flag of the year -- and did not restart as repairs were made at turn 11, with the afternoon session brought forward an hour to make up for the lost time.

Television images showed Leclerc, who was quickest in the session, and Mercedes' seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton running over the kerbside drain with debris thrown into the air.

Leclerc appeared to dislodge the cover before Hamilton went over it, with the Ferrari then going over the same area for a second time.

Ferrari also suffered car damage in Las Vegas last November when Carlos Sainz ran over a loose drain cover during first practice, bringing a halt to proceedings.

Teams have only three days of testing -- one and a half per driver -- before the start in Bahrain on March 2 of what will be a record 24-race championship, and every minute of pre-season running is precious.

Leclerc had set a fastest lap of one minute 31.750 seconds, with McLaren's Oscar Piastri 0.578 slower and Williams' Logan Sargeant third and 0.828 off the pace.

Red Bull's triple world champion Max Verstappen was fastest on Wednesday, although timings do not mean so much with teams running to their own programmes, and team mate Sergio Perez had his turn on Thursday.

The Mexican had a problem with overheating brakes and was fourth on the timesheets ahead of Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso and Hamilton.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)

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