Practice 1 abandoned after Russell strikes drain cover

George Russell’s damaged Williams pic: Fox Sports

A bizarre incident involving George Russell has seen opening practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix abandoned after a loose drain cover damaged the Williams.

The incident occurred with little more than 15 minutes run in the 90-minute session, and was abandoned with just over an hour left on the session clock.

The manhole appeared to come loose as Charles Leclerc ran over the manhole cover on the straight between Turn 2 and 3 just moments before Russell arrived on the scene.

Adding insult to injury, the flat tow which carried the damaged Williams back to pit lane struck a bridge, and leaked hydraulic fluid onto the car.

A second crane was then required to lift the stricken car off the back of the truck once it returned to the pits, where it was finally lifted clear and returned to the team.

“I think it’s clear from the data, I think it’s clear from what everyone can see, there’s probably quite a lot of damage to the floor on the car, and who knows what else,” said deputy team boss Claire Williams shortly after the incident occurred on track.

“Clearly we’re going to have to wait and see until we get it back to see the actual extent of that.

“We’ll have to wait and see whether that chassis is repairable or whether we need to go to our third chassis, but clearly not what we want.

“But also clearly not what you’d expect from a Formula 1 track, these drain covers are supposed to be bolted down.

“We’ll be picking that up with Race Control.”

It’s not the first time a drain cover has caused issues, with Romain Grosjean having a similar incident at the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2017.

In that instance the failure occurred during second practice, with the remainder of track activity for the day cancelled as a full track inspection was carried out by the FIA.

Australian Michael Masi is once again race director for the weekend, his fourth event in the role, with a permanent replacement for the late Charlie Whiting yet to be confirmed.

Practice 2 is scheduled to begin at 2300 AEST.

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