Azerbaijan GP: F1 vehicle damaged after driving over dislodged manhole cover

Azerbaijan GP: F1 vehicle damaged after driving over dislodged manhole cover

The FIA has explained why a manhole cover became loose in Friday's opening practice session for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The Briton's auto caught the edge of the cover between Turns Two and Three and it smashed the floor of his vehicle, which then shut down.

Some estimates put the likely cost to Williams of the damage at more than half a million dollars.

Claire Williams, deputy team principal for the struggling British constructor, told Sky Sports: "It's clearly not what we want and it's not what you expect from a Formula One track".

Williams' vehicle was late to pre-season testing and has trailed at the rear of the field so far in F1 2019 and Williams said the unexpected repairs would add new pressures to the team.

He said: "I got the biggest smack through my body, and the whole engine turned off".

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

The Briton was unhurt but the dislodged cover smashed the underside of the Briton's auto, bringing out the red flags to stop the session after just 12 of 90 scheduled minutes.

Race director Michael Masi said a preliminary investigation indicated one of the clamps beneath the manhole had failed.

To add insult to injury, the recovery crane carrying Russell's Williams back to the pits then farcically collided with a temporary pedestrian bridge running over the circuit.

After China, a controversy ignited in Italy because meteoric Ferrari newcomer Leclerc was ordered aside for team "number 1" Vettel.

Just fifteen minutes into FP1, Williams' George Russell ran over the dislodged drain cover which was subsequently sucked up, hitting the underside of the Brit's auto and damaging the chassis beyond fix.

Five-times world champion and overall leader Lewis Hamilton, victor in Baku a year ago for Mercedes, did not seem to mind the lack of action, however.

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. Formula 2's qualifying session did not start as scheduled at 3pm local time, but second practice is still due to go ahead after the necessary checks have taken place.

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