Button relieved – and angry – as loose drain cover hits car

McLaren driver Fernando Alonso of Spain walks down pit lane during the second free practice at the Monaco racetrack in Monaco, Monaco, Thursday, May 26, 2016. The Formula one race will be held on Sunday. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Petr David Josek/AP

MONACO (AP) Jenson Button was both relieved and angry after a loose drain cover flew up and hit his McLaren during a practice session at the Monaco Grand Prix on Thursday.

The incident happened late in first practice when Formula One championship leader Nico Rosberg sustained a puncture going over a loose drain cover, which then became a projectile and damaged the front wing of Button's car.

''We were lucky in a way that we just damaged the car,'' Button said. ''We have enough dangers in this controlled environment normally and it's fine, but a drain cover lifting in the air for an open-top car is extremely dangerous.''

Although the 36-year-old British driver was reluctant to apportion blame because ''normally, the safety standards here are very good,'' he said there was no excuse.

''That incident is something we don't want to see again,'' he said. ''It was lucky that the drain cover stayed quite low on the ground.''

Button's near-miss comes at a time when F1 is contemplating how to improve cockpit safety in the wake of French driver Jules Bianchi's death.

Last July, Bianchi died after a long battle to recover from head injuries sustained in a head-on collision at the Japanese Grand Prix in October 2014. He was 25.

On Thursday, Bianchi's family said in a statement through British litigation-only law firm Stewarts Law that it is taking legal action against motorsport's governing body, the Marussia team and Formula One Management following Bianchi's death.

F1 is contemplating using closed cockpits, or protective halo devices around the cockpit area, in order to reduce the risk of serious injuries from crashes and also flying debris.

''It's never acceptable when there is an incident like this,'' two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso, who is Button's teammate, said Thursday. ''Let's make sure that between all of us and in the sport in general we minimize the risk.''

Alonso rolled his car at the season-opening Australian GP and had to sit out the next race in Bahrain as a precautionary measure after medical checks

''I would still prefer to have the accident in Australia with a canopy (halo device),'' the Spaniard said, ''even if it's a little bit more difficult to get out (of the car).''