First practice cancelled after 30 minutes due to manhole cover failure

2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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First practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix has been cancelled after George Russell hit a manhole cover during the session.

Russell struck the manhole cover on the straight between turns two and three shortly after the first practice session began. The cover caused significant damage to the underside of the Williams, forcing Russell to stop, bringing out the red flags.

The entire cover was lifted from the manhole in the incident, and following inspections the decision was taken to abandon the session with an hour left to run so all the covers could be checked.

A comedy of errors unfolded as the Williams was returned to the team. The car was loaded onto a recovery truck, which then struck a bridge, and spilled hydraulic fluid onto the FW42’s engine cover.

The Ferrari drivers were the only ones to set lap times during the session. The Mercedes pair did not even make it out of the pits for their installation laps before proceedings were halted.

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Pos.No.DriverCarBest lapGapLaps
116Charles LeclercFerrari1’47.4975
25Sebastian VettelFerrari1’49.5982.1014
38Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari
44Lando NorrisMcLaren-Renault
533Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda
620Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari
755Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren-Renault
899Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari
926Daniil KvyatToro Rosso-Honda
1088Robert KubicaWilliams-Mercedes
1163George RussellWilliams-Mercedes
1223Alexander AlbonToro Rosso-Honda
133Daniel RicciardoRenault
1427Nico HulkenbergRenault
1510Pierre GaslyRed Bull-Honda
167Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari
1711Sergio PerezRacing Point-Mercedes
1818Lance StrollRacing Point-Mercedes
1944Lewis HamiltonMercedes
2077Valtteri BottasMercedes

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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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  • 63 comments on “First practice cancelled after 30 minutes due to manhole cover failure”

    1. #WellDoneBaku

    2. Wow!
      That’s the epitome of incompetence!

      Of course US 2005 was bad, but Azerbaijan 2019 just trumped it.

      1. And the truck driver hitting the bridge… just *facepalm*

        1. @dallein Can they blame Ericsson for that? ;-)

          1. Sure!
            I believe I’ve seen him lurking just behind Russell!

        2. Remember last year when Grosjean crashed behind the safety car? The truck that came to remove his car was something out of the 1980s and looked like it belonged on a scrap heap. The operators then farcically tried to hook it up the the car for very long time before finally managing to get the car removed from the track. They looked totally untrained and with substandard equipment. Surely the track side equipment should be mandated to be up to scratch and the workers should have to be trained properly?

      2. Exaggerating much? We’ve seen it(loose drains) happen at many tracks, including Monaco, in the past, and the tow truck was a matter of inches. Calm yourself

        1. What? “Calm yourself”? Are you talking to me?

          If so, just move along, we have nothing to talk about.

          1. I agree calm your farm. This is nothing compared to us 2005. It’s fp1.

          2. Take it easy mate!

          3. @dallein, he does have a point, as there have been quite a few examples of similar incidents happening over the years.

            Just off the top of my head, I can think of Montoya (2005 Chinese GP IIRC), Barrichello (2010 Monaco GP) and Perez (2011 Malaysian GP) as instances where a driver had his car damaged by striking a loose drain cover.

      3. This is no where near 2005, this kind of things happen quite a lot. Its not that big of a deal.

      4. Flav’s mates!

    3. I hope Williams have enough spare parts. Of all the teams Williams is the least capable (equipped) to cope with a bizarre accident like this. Real shame.

      1. Claire spoke to Radio 5 and said they are OK for spares but she sounds angry with the situation – as she should be!

      2. They can always use that magical silver tape ;)

        1. That’s what they did to kubicas floor in melbourne, didn’t help

        2. “Magical silver tape” no this is serious! Beyond gaffer tape, beyond even Duck tape, this, folks, is Gorilla tape territory!

          We should remember that inspection or manhole covers are normally held in place by gravity acting on their mass, which equates to heavy metal! If the floor of an F1 car is working properly it will create a partial vacuum between it and the surface over which it is travelling.
          I can’t be bothered to do the maths but depending on the surface area of the cover it will be dragged upwards by a force of many tens of Kilograms, hence the reason most tracks weld them to the outer supporting frame, which itself must be firmly fixed, lipped and embedded in concrete most probably.

          1. He was (jokingly) talking about a way to fix the car, not the manhole cover.

          2. I believe “gaffer” and “duct” (not ‘duck’…) tape are the same thing. The first name is used in Britain, the second in the States…
            But good of you to explain the physics… lol.

      3. @matthijs didn’t Haas sue Sepang for their incident a few years back? It was also a drain cover which destroyed Grosjran car. Can’t remember if they were paid after all…

    4. Not the first time this has happened in F1! You would have thought they would have a system to secure them on street circuits. Could have been nasty if it was at the end of the longest straight!!!

      1. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
        26th April 2019, 11:39

        This is a problem even on designated circuits. Look at Grosjean’s drain cover induced crash in malaysia 2 years ago

        But I agree they need to check it out. Like you said, if this happened at the end of the straight, the results could be dire, especially if this were to happen in the race itself

        1. if this happened at the end of the straight, the results could be dire, especially if this were to happen in the race itself – Indeed, like when somebody decides to change direction thrice.

    5. Am I the only one that prefer the word drain over manhole???

      1. They are 2 different things.

      2. Sonny Crockett
        26th April 2019, 10:58


        I don’t want anybody interfering with my manhole!

      3. One’s an exit, the other is an entry (tongue in cheek)

        1. @phylyp

          (tongue in cheek)

          To be honest, that made the mental imagery even worse for me. >_<

          1. Not that cheek, dang it!

      4. A Manhole is what’s used for utilities etc like water/telecoms access points.

        A drain is a drain, obviously. They’re usually conflated wrongly.

      5. In today’s PC times it should be ‘personhole’.

    6. Well – a lot of people say there should be less practice sessions so they should be happy or at least interested in the situation.

      Wonder how badly the bridge is damaged and if that will be a problem?

      1. Hopefully the bridge will be OK.

        It made a loud bang but doesn’t appear to have actually hit that badly.

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

    8. On the plus side, the pundits are finally right. Ferrari 1-2, Mercedes last, with Leclerc 2s faster than Vettel.

      Isn’t that what we have been buying?

      1. Who needs sprinkler when you have manholes?

    9. Just had a thought.
      What would have happened if this happened in Qualifying?

      1. I don’t need any congrats or jokes about having had a thought either by the way! :P

      2. @nullapax – I think quali would be cancelled on Saturday, and run on Sunday morning (similar to how quali is rescheduled if there are extremely heavy rains).

        1. Ahh right – makes sense.

          1. Now can we make jokes…? ;-)

    10. Definitely a challenge for the new Race Director. He’s going to be one very busy man for the next few hours.

      1. @dbradock – well, in all honesty, the buck stops with him. He’s ultimately responsible for the readiness of the circuit. And if they don’t have a way of verifying that the manhole covers have been adequately secured (via welding or bolts), then they need to come up with a procedure to do so. Trust, but verify.

        1. @phylyp I’d actually wondered whether or not it was something missed because of inexperience on his part.

          1. @dbradock – mmm, fair question.

    11. Panagiotis Papatheodorou (@panagiotism-papatheodorou)
      26th April 2019, 11:03

      Leclerc also touched it prior to Russell. Extremely lucky for Charles to be honest. Shame for George, just another problem to his career so far. This will have consequences both for F1 and F2. Qualifying for the latter starts in less than an hour, I am not sure if both FP2 and Q will take place today.

    12. Well, at least Leclerc has blown Vettel’s cover and established a jarring 2 second gap.

    13. Is kubica the only driver on the grid yet to do a lap of this track? I believe the other rookies all raced there in f2. His return goes from bad to worse, but I’ll support him to the end!

      1. . . . and your unnecessary KUB comments go from dull to boring…!

    14. Can f1 make fp1 in fp2 place, then run fp2 and fp3 tomorrow? They could then run quali on Sunday morning before race which has been done before. Do fans get a refund for such farces not due to weather, but due to the sport?

      1. I’d rather just miss out fp1 this time. Lack of practice could make for an even more interesting race at what can often be an interesting circuit?

        1. Yeh true actually

      2. FP1’s been cancelled, so no, it won’t be run.

    15. I recall an incident at a World Sportscar Championship round at Montreal in 1990 where a drain cover was pulled up just prior to the bridge before turn 8 & hit by A Porsche 962 which ended up bursting into flames due to a ruptured fuel tank.

    16. This is not a good start to the weekend, but luckily it was not in the race. I also remember Jenson hitting a cover in the Monaco race a few years back, can’t remember which year it was, but it was close to being a nasty crash.

    17. No one has mentioned the other incident, montoya in Turkey, and that isn’t a street circuit.

      1. I take it KUB wasn’t involved in that incident… ;-)

    18. Stephen Higgins
      26th April 2019, 13:15

      Somewhere up there Charlie Whiting is shaking his head and tutting to himself; “I’ve only been gone two races and look at this lot …”

    19. It appears that Maldonado has finally got another drive in F1.

    20. Adub Smallblock
      26th April 2019, 14:29

      I thought I read on another site that it was not just the cover that came up (that was secured), but the entire manhole assembly, that was NOT secured. Can anyone confirm or correct me??

    Comments are closed.