BAKU (Reuters) – First practice for the Azerbaijan Formula One Grand Prix was abandoned on Friday after a loose drain cover wrecked George Russell’s Williams in a shower of debris.
The Briton was unhurt but the dislodged cover smashed the underside of the Briton’s car, bringing out the red flags to stop the session after just 12 of 90 scheduled minutes.
“I just hit it, the biggest shock went through my body. The whole engine just turned off, it’s ruined the floor,” said Russell.
“It was just on the normal racing line and has ruined my session.”
In another bizarre twist, the mobile crane carrying the Williams back to the pits struck the underside of a sponsor hoarding spanning the Baku street circuit.
Practice was called off as organisers worked to inspect more than 300 covers around the circuit and carry out repairs before Friday’s second practice.
Ferrari’s two drivers were the only ones to set a time, with Charles Leclerc ahead of Sebastian Vettel. Replays showed the Monegasque running over the cover, potentially dislodging it, just before Russell.
“I think there’s inevitably going to be quite a lot of damage,” Williams deputy principal Claire Williams told the BBC.
“You can see from the TV that’s just taken the whole underside out. That is not helpful for us at the moment.”
“The circuit needs to make sure that their drain covers are bolted down properly…the damage that can do could put us out this afternoon.”
Former champions Williams are last in the standings and have yet to score a point this season.
(Reporting by Abhishek Takle, editing by Alan Baldwin and Toby Chopra)