Azerbaijan GP, Practice One: Drain cover drama stops F1 session
Practice One stopped early after errant manhole cover wrecks Russell's Williams at high-speed; Recovery truck then hits bridge!
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 26/04/19 7:33pm
Formula 1's first practice session at the Azerbaijan GP was cancelled after a loose drain cover caused havoc in Baku.
The session was barely 10 minutes old when George Russell's Williams ran over a manhole cover which had worked its way loose at high-speed, causing heavy damage to the underside of the Briton's car.
Charles Leclerc's Ferrari had just run over the same drain, appearing to loosen it.
The session was immediately red-flagged but with Race Control needing to assess the problem and check all other drains were properly bolted down, Practice One was promptly abandoned.
Baku's 6km-long circuit, which winds round the city's streets, is believed to feature 320 drains.
"Although all safety and regulatory checks had been put in place beforehand, the resulting issue was caused due an undetectable problem beneath the fitting that only became apparent this afternoon," said the Baku circuit on Twitter.
We have coordinated with FIA to secure a replacement cover and to check all other manholes on the circuit before racing can resume. Driver safety is always paramount and our main priority. With over 300 manholes on the circuit, this process will take some time.— Baku City Circuit (@BakuCityCircuit) April 26, 2019
F1's practice programme has now essentially been condensed from three to two sessions ahead of qualifying on Saturday. Following track inspections, Practice Two began on schedule later Friday.
"I got the biggest smack through my body, the whole engine turned off, it's ruined the floor and I'm a bit worried for the chassis now," Russell told Sky Sports F1.
"The session won't be going green until it's sorted. We were on the normal racing line and it's completely ruined our session. It's not what we need at this stage."
Williams confirmed after the session that Russell's car required a chassis change, leaving the Briton unable to return to track until Practice Three on Saturday.
An unimpressed Claire Williams added: "It's clearly not what we want and it's not what you expect from a Formula 1 track. These drain covers are supposed to be bolted down. We'll be picking that up with Race Control."
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Only the two Ferrari drivers, Leclerc and Vettel, had set lap times before the session was red-flagged, with the Scuderia trying out car upgrades introduced for this race. Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were the only ones not to even complete an installation run.
WATCH: Look out for that bridge!
To make matters worse for circuit officials, the recovery truck retrieving the stricken Williams ran into its own problems on the way back to the pit lane - when its crane smacked into a bridge!
"It's a calamity of errors," said Red Bull's Christian Horner to Sky F1. "I've never seen that before."
Oil from the crane was then seen leaking onto the Williams car as they waited to unload it once outside the team's garage, compounding a forgettable start to the weekend for the luckless Grove team.
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