Published: Fri, April 26, 2019
Sport | By Kayla Schwartz

Loose street cover ends first F1 practice in Azerbaijan

Loose street cover ends first F1 practice in Azerbaijan

Opening practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was abandoned on Friday because of safety concerns after a loose drain cover caused serious damage to George Russell's Williams vehicle.

First we had the session abandoned after 20 minutes after a loose manhole cover on the back straight between turns 2 and 3 wrecked the rear end of the Williams, then we had the sight of the low-loader returning the vehicle to the pits crashing into a bridge.

With just over 10 minutes of the first session of the weekend gone, Russell was powering down the straight towards Turn 3 at the Baku City Circuit when his Williams struck a drain cover that had been lifted by Charles Leclerc's Ferrari. It is a huge blow to the struggling Williams team, which has been short of spare parts since the start of the year, when it missed the opening two and a half days of testing due to late completion of its 2019 vehicle.

A marshal attempted to stamp the cover down before the running was cancelled. "I see much of myself in Charles and he's doing a great job so far with really high expectations at a huge team like Ferrari".

Russell has been suffering with a respiratory infection this week and was pulled from his Thursday media duties.

"I got the biggest smack through my body, the whole engine turned off", Russell said, before P1 was abandoned.

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"It was just on the normal racing line and has ruined my session".

"We have another chassis that we might need to bring in. So as a competitor, as a racer, you naturally kind of rebel, they say to do one thing but the fight in your wants to go the other way".

"I think there's inevitably going to be quite a lot of damage", Williams deputy principal Claire Williams told the BBC.

But the alarming incident will raise safety concerns ahead of Sunday's race.

Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton also saw the lighter side of the incident, saying the cancelled session gave him more time to catch up on Game of Thrones, which he has recently been binge-watching in time for the series finale.

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