George Russell, Williams, Baku City Circuit, 2019

Russell: “Very fortunate” Williams had a spare car

2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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George Russell says it is “very fortunate” Williams have a spare car in Baku after his first car was heavily damaged by a loose drain cover during first practice.

Williams did not have its first car ready in time for the start of testing and began the racing season short of spare parts. However it did have a third chassis ready for this weekend.

F1’s sporting regulations state each team “may have no more than two cars available for use at any one time during an event”, so Russell had to sit out the second practice session while Williams built up the new chassis for him.

“I’ll go into tomorrow trying to make the most of our session,” said Russell. “But obviously we don’t have our spare car now.

“Obviously you don’t plan to crash or do anything stupid like that. But the spare car is there for a reason, you’d want to try to go to a spare car when it’s truly needed from something of your own doing, let’s say, and this is completely out of our hands.

“So they’re very fortunate we had that here or else we wouldn’t be racing.”

The rookie said there was nothing he could have done to avoid the damage, which occured when his car lifted the drain cover from the ground because a clamp beneath it had failed.

“It just came out of nowhere. You can’t see these drains really when you’re going that fast down the straights and you’ve got so many on the track it’s just normal to run over them.

“The second I did there was a huge bang. I didn’t feel anything through my back so that was good but I could tell it ripped the floor off, it set the fire extinguisher off and because of that the car ended up turning off. The fire extinguisher was so cold it was almost burning me so I didn’t know what was going on at that point.

“So I just jumped out as quick as I could. It’s just an unnecessary amount of pain, damage, a lot of costs [are] going to be incurred because of this incident. It’s frustrating for all of us.”

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Dieter Rencken
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10 comments on “Russell: “Very fortunate” Williams had a spare car”

  1. More like a spare monocoque or survival cell depending on how one wants to refer to the central part of a single-seater racing car, the term ‘spare car’ or more precisely the word ‘car’ in this type of context can be a bit misleading.

    1. I think that’s a good question, how much actually makes up a ‘spare’ car these days? It’s surely more than just the monocoque? I’m guessing all the wiring looms, ECU, hydraulics, suspension (I would have thought a floor, Williams seem short on them).

      ‘Chassis’ seems like quite a loose term.

    2. Agreed @jerejj @bernasaurus , particularly as teams aren’t allowed by the regs to actually have a 3rd car. How much do they need to take off a 3rd car to make it acceptable as a spare piece of kit? :)

    3. Peter N. Carbone
      27th April 2019, 14:14

      How come they never show us the actual damage done by that manhole cover?

  2. Spare kit car. Which shows what a joke the rules are. They all have spare cars, but in quick assembly Ikea kits. It would be cheaper to just let them bring a preassembled spare.

    1. Pete, except that the cars usually have to be stripped down first in order to transport them – all of the cars are transported as a “quick assembly Ikea kit”, as you put it, so they cannot transport “a pre-assembled spare” to begin with.

      The point of only allowing the team to assemble two cars is to cut down on the workload of the mechanics, by making it so they only have to reassemble two cars, rather than three cars, during the race weekend. Otherwise, normally they would be having to reassemble that third car – and then having to disassemble it at the end of the weekend – for no real benefit, since usually you wouldn’t need it.

      There is a cost control element, since you are then cutting down on the number of mechanics you need each weekend – since you normally would have to have a few extra mechanics to help with the rebuild and dismantling of that third car – but there is a strong element of also trying to stop the teams from overworking the mechanics, as there have been more than a few near misses in the pit lane in the past involving fatigued mechanics.

      1. There is a cost control element, since you are then cutting down on the number of mechanics you need each weekend … but there is a strong element of also trying to stop the teams from overworking the mechanics

        Isn’t the latter reason (tiring them out) the primary motivator, though? The number of heads in a race weekend is capped at 50 or 60 already, isn’t it? So there’s no personnel cost savings by capping a team at two cars.

  3. Fascinating insight there about the fire extinguishers! Didn’t know they were present in the cars. Compulsory?

    1. Yeah, on-board fire suppression is mandatory… pretty much the same in all major forms of car based motorsports, as far as I know.

    2. @gabf1, I believe that the sport has mandated onboard fire extinguishers since the late 1960s, although the regulations back then were fairly basic.

      The regulations in the 1960s only required one 1kg extinguisher to be on board, which was fairly useless in a major fire given that it wasn’t until the 1970s that the sport began specifying regulations that made it less likely that the fuel tanks would rupture and began insisting on self-sealing fuel lines. It was also, unfortunately, not unheard of for teams to allegedly send cars out with empty fire extinguishers as a way of cheating the minimum weight requirements in that era.

      It’s not until the 1980s that you get something which is similar to the current fire extinguisher systems, when they started mandating a dual extinguisher system – one for the cockpit area, so as to protect the driver, and a second for the engine bay – which also featured automatic systems that were separate from the main wiring loops of the car (so that, even if the main electrical systems were damaged, the extinguishers could operate anyway). I think that it isn’t until the 1980s that the sport also began insisting on fitting a fire extinguisher system that could operate when the car was upside down.

      The regulations have remained reasonably similar since the 1990s, as they have been fairly effective since then at containing onboard fires.

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