Williams’ first day of running in the Azerbaijan has been marred by a bizarre incident involving their driver George Russell that caused FP1 to be cancelled early in the session, and saw the end of Russell’s Friday running altogether.
With barely a laptime posted, footage showed Charles Leclerc dislodging a manhole cover as he approached turn three on his first timed lap.
George Russell’s Williams, the next to arrive on the scene, ran directly over the cover, now standing proud of the track surface, causing the car to jolt upwards, bits of its underside shearing off and disappearing in a plume of carbon fibre as it came to a halt at turn three.
The session was inevitably red flagged, and subsequently aborted as it became clear that all 300+ manhole covers around the 3.7 mile circuit would need to be checked and secured if necessary.
It was later confirmed by Williams that Russell’s car was sufficiently damaged by contact with the drain cover that he would need a new chassis for the remainder of the weekend, and that this would require eight or nine hours work to assemble, and would also need to go through FIA scrutineering, both of which would prevent the young Englishman from taking any further part until at least FP3 on Saturday.
Speaking about the incident, Claire Williams said: “I’m incredibly annoyed about it, clearly. The most important thing is that George is OK, and that it didn’t cause what could potentially have been a bigger accident. We have to ask the FIA and FOM to ensure that it doesn’t happen, and protect against it in the future.”
To make the situation worse, with Russell’s Williams FW42 on the back of a flat-bed truck, said truck then collided with a bridge, causing hydraulic fluid to drain all over the back of the car.
So having sent their car out on track at the start of the session, through absolutely no fault of their own, Williams get it back on the back of a truck smashed to pieces and covered in an unpleasant oily liquid.
It never (d)rains, it pours!