Azerbaijan GP: First practice cancelled due to manhole cover failure

George Russel's Williams hit a manhole cover on the straight between turns two and three and he stopped immediately, which brought out the red flags.

George Russell's Williams car is put onto a tow truck after it was damaged in FP1.   -  REUTERS

The first practice of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix has been cancelled after George Russel hit a loose manhole cover during the opening minutes of the session.

Russel's Williams hit a manhole cover on the straight between turns two and three, which caused significant damage to the underside of the car. He stopped immediately, which brought out the red flags as circuit workers tried to get the manhole cover back in place.

Television replays showed that the cover had already been loosened by Charles Leclerc's Ferrari.

"I just hit it and got the biggest smack through my body. I was just going down the straight on my normal line," Russell told Sky Sports.

"The engine turned off, it's ruined the floor and the chassis could be ruined. The session won't be going green until it's sorted and it's ruined the session. I'm better, still not 100 per cent but going in the right direction."

 

Speaking to BBC, Williams deputy principal Claire Williams said: "It's clear from the data and what everyone can see that there is a lot of damage to the floor of the car and who knows what else.

"We'll need to wait and see until we get it back to [assess] the extent of that.  We'll have to wait and see if that chassis is repairable or if we have to go to our third chassis.

"It's clearly not what we want and it's not what you expect from a Formula One track. These drain covers are supposed to be bolted down. We'll be picking that up with race control."

As Russell's damaged FW42 was being taken to the pits, the crane that had helped lift the vehicle collided with a bridge and spilt hydraulic fluid onto the car.

Race director Michael Masi soon cancelled the rest of the session, in which only the Ferraris had set lap times, to try to resolve the multiple problems.