Claire Williams, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019

Baku drain cover failure “not acceptable” – Williams

2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams says it is “not acceptable” that a drain cover was able to seriously damage George Russell’s car during first practice at the Baku City Circuit.

The first practice session was abandoned after Russell’s car lifted the manhole cover from the track approaching turn three, causing significant damage to its underside.

Williams said he driver was unharmed in the incident. “I haven’t had a chat with George yet, he looks alright from what I can see,” she told the BBC. “I think the car has got a lot of damage, though.”

The team began the season short of parts for its FW42 but Williams confirmed they have enough spares to fix Russell’s car.

“I think there’s inevitably going to be quite a lot of damage,” she said. “You can see from the TV that’s just taken the whole underside out. That is not helpful for us at the moment.”

Williams said she will raise the matter with race control.

“The circuit needs to make sure that their drain covers are bolted down properly. That’s just not acceptable. The damage that that can do could put us out this afternoon. We have another chassis that we might need to bring in. And that’s not what Formula 1 tracks should be.”

One of the team’s cars was also damaged by a drain cover at Baku during final practice for the inaugural race in 2016.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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26 comments on “Baku drain cover failure “not acceptable” – Williams”

  1. Shades of Malaysia, where a grate damaged the Haas. IIRC, it took two years for the promoter’s insurance pay out.

    1. Have Williams said they will seek damages? Even the delay in those costs may hurt them as buyers are potentially circling them.

  2. On the bright side. If the cars too damaged to participate, it’s one less embarrassment driving around 2 seconds off the pace.

    1. @dbradock – i get what your saying – but thats not entirely the point right?

      i have to agree with Claire, i mean this happened on one of the actual race tracks last year if im no mistaken – drain cover was up and Gos’s Haas rear right got ripped right off. in both incidents it could been a whole lot worse.

      again if im not mistaken we are also expecting some updates to the ‘fundamental’ Williams problem/s this weekend – unless someone can show me otherwise.

    2. @dbradock on a serious note, this is their best chance to score points this early in the season with how caothic this race can be.

  3. The performance of the Williams cars since 2019 has also been “not acceptable “

  4. It is better that it happend during practice rather than the race, but very disappointing to see such an avoidable incident. A little bit amateurish by the Baku authorities. It’s not like this type of thing has not happened before, or that it is not possible even if it hadn’t.

    1. I can’t help but suspect this wouldn’t have happened if Charlie was there.

  5. This is very dangerous, i’m disappointed it’s still happenning.

  6. It would be nice if the FIA were to simulate (or even physically test) a halo with a manhole cover being shot at it.

    It’s an extreme case, but if leading cars loosen a manhole cover with enough passes, and a later car’s tyre sends it airborne with a squirt of the throttle, I’d be curious to see how the driver protection holds up.

    It’s extreme enough that we (probably) don’t have to start putting in driver safety measures for this (but keep it at a track level), but it would still be good to know how a tough and heavy piece of metal behaves against a titanium halo.

    1. I know you are probably serious, but this sounds like a job for the original Top Gear team.

      I mean, how hard could it be?

      Theyd probably have thing miss the halo altogether and hit the drivers head, and on that bombshell recommend returning to pre head-safety-construct days. ;)

      1. I can definitely see the trio do this :)

        And while they’re at it, a joke at Hammond’s expense about his mental slowness being on account of him having a similarly awkward encounter with a manhole cover in the past.

        1. Lol. Yeah
          Or get him to sit in the car because hes so short his head would be below the bulwark and thus utterly safe

          Ah, boys dreams.

    2. Don’t know about the halo, but I imagine a cast iron disc hurtling towards carbon fibre at anything above 30mph would slice it in two.
      The horror would come from the cover at a 45 degree angle and slicing the floor in two – the drivers only sit centimetres above the floor so you can imagine the injuries.

      1. Yeah, the titanium halo would be fine, the weak point might actually be the tub, as you point out.

        Argh, why’d you have to go and put that thought in my head now.

  7. Unacceptable. Of all the safety improvements made to the cars and barriers, a drain cover could rip a car apart and easily kill a driver.

    Hope Williams get a healthy pay out.

  8. Hello Claire

    I pay my F1 annual subscription, and I pay my TV subscription so that I can watch every race.
    I get up early, rush home or stay up late to watch races throughout the season.
    I follow the news daily so that I’m an enlightened educated fan.

    And then you arrive late for testing, deliver a sub-par car that diminished the show, run out of parts, and deprive us of seeing two talented drivers.

    Do we really need to discuss what is unacceptable?

    1. Get lost, this kind on incident can kill a driver. What is wrong with you??? People like you don’t deserve to watch this sport.

      1. @kpcart, i think he just reacted just on the comment of Claire and something triggered him.

      2. “People like you don’t deserve to watch this sport.” That’s good coming from a troll… lmao.

    2. Congratulations, Dale. You’re an F1 fan. Want a cookie?

      Your need to point out how dedicated and “enlightened educated” you are is downright silly.

  9. Keith: How about a tech article on manhole retention technology?😜😝

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