George Russell says he’s fortunate to have walked away from his crash with a manhole cover that broke his Williams chassis during Friday practice.
Russell was among the first drivers to take to the circuit at the beginning of FP1, but the session was red-flagged and ultimately called off after his car was partially destroyed when he ran over a loose drain plate just 12 minutes into the day.
The metal grate ripped through the bottom of the car, necessitating a chassis change, but the Briton walked away unscathed. However, Russell subsequently revealed that the stray piece of metal had been less than inch away from penetrating the cockpit and causing him potentially serious injury.
“It could have been much worse,” he said. “If that was 10 or 15 millimeters higher, it’s going straight into where I’m sat.
“I knew I hit something on the track. I didn’t realize it was a manhole cover. It was already quite bumpy down the straight as it is.
“Surprisingly it didn’t hurt at all going over that. It set the fire extinguisher off and as it was so cold I thought something was burning. But, like I said, it was quite a shock when I smashed it. Really dangerous.
“Just shocked more than anything. Going down the straight doing normal stuff and I got a big hit and obviously a lot of damage — the car turned off straight away because of the damage.”
Despite the perilous situation, Russell remained philosophical about the freak accident and refused to apportion blame.
“These circuits are designed to the highest standards,” he said. “It’s one of those things. Everybody does their job. Nobody plans for this to happen; it’s just an unfortunate situation. Real shame for all of the mechanics to repair the car and it was all down the drain after one lap.”
With the regulations requiring him to miss FP2 as a result of changing his chassis, FP3 will be Russell’s first taste of the Baku City Circuit in 2019, leaving him feeling under-prepared for its unique challenges.
“I’ve lost both practice sessions now,” he lamented. “Obviously everyone lost FP1, but I lost 40 laps maybe in this session.
“[I have] only one hour before quali, and we won’t be doing much more than one qualifying session I suspect, so we’re going into the race quite blind.
“I’ve got to just go out and don’t do anything stupid. I want to treat tomorrow like an FP1. I can’t go out full attack as I still need to learn the circuit and get my bearings again.
“It’s a bit frustrating but we have to make the most of the situation. I’m trying to remain positive.”