Williams driver George Russell won’t take part in Friday afternoon’s practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku after the team confirmed his run-in with a loose drain cover in the abbreviated morning session damaged his survival cell.
The Briton ran over the loose manhole plate just 12 minutes into the session, causing a red flag that eventually led to the cancellation of the session on safety grounds.
The damage to his FW42 was substantial, and the team confirmed shortly after receiving the car in the pit lane that a new chassis would be required. The car must therefore be scrutineered again, and the sporting regulations stipulate that it cannot be used until the next day of competition.
“The circuit needs to make sure that their drain covers are bolted down properly. That’s just not acceptable,” team principal Claire Williams told the BBC. “And that’s not what Formula 1 tracks should be.”
Williams later confirmed that her team would be looking into recovering costs for repairs from the Azerbaijan organizers once the full extent of the necessary repairs have been understood.
The Baku City Circuit released a statement via Twitter ahead of the afternoon practice session to reaffirm that the circuit had been declared safe ahead of the weekend but that an “undetectable problem” in one of the more than 300 drain covers had resulted in the crash.
“Although all safety and regulatory checks had been put in place beforehand, the resulting issue was caused due an undetectable problem beneath the fitting that only became apparent this afternoon,” read the statement.
“We have coordinated with FIA to secure a replacement cover and to check all other manholes on the circuit before racing can resume. Driver safety is always paramount and our main priority. With over 300 manholes on the circuit, this process will take some time.”
On-track action resumed with Formula 2 qualifying at 3:30 p.m. local time — 30 minutes late and approximately two and a half hours after the track inspection began after Russell’s crash.
The FIA has confirmed FP2 will start as planned at 5 p.m. local time.