The Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku has been one of the most dramatic over the past two seasons, but this year, the drama has begun right from the practice sessions. In a major lapse, a loose drain cover struck George Russell’s Williams F1 car during the first practice session on Friday. The incident resulted in nearly destroying the Williams car, which is being rebuilt for the race this Sunday, while also opening an investigation into the matter by the FIA. In a statement, the FIA determined that a “break on an underside mounting” led to the drain coming loose.
Russell’s car struck the drain cover on the approach to Turn 3 in the early opening session of the street circuit. The practice was barely 10 minutes in and only Mercedes had a chance to lap the circuit before the session was abandoned, as the FIA carried out checks on all 360 drain covers around the circuit. Russell further revealed that he experienced up to 4G forces in the cockpit after hitting the drain cover. It was concluded that no further problems were discovered and no reinforcements were made. The second practice on Saturday also saw the drain covers being checked after the completing the session.
The incident has turned out to be an expensive affair for Williams, which will have to change the chassis on Russell’s car along with a new floor, bodywork and a precautionary energy recovery system module change. The cost of replacing the components is said to be significant and will only add to financial woes of the team. The Williams team had only caught up with the development of spare parts, following a late last minute build due to changes in the design over legal issues.
Williams is said to claim compensation over the incident from the circuit organisers, which is in-charge of maintaining the track that is fit to race. The amount of the compensation though is yet to be determined. Incidentally, this is not the first time that such an incident has occurred. Back in 2017, Haas too had a similar drain-related incident and had received full compensation from the Sepang circuit in Malaysia.