The Azerbaijan Grand Prix at Baku has been proving itself to be one of Formula One’s most exciting races of the year—mostly just because the tight street circuit makes for a hell of a lot of shenanigans. And those shenanigans have already started kicking off in the form of a killer manhole determined to gobble up race cars.
The first practice session of the weekend barely lasted ten minutes before officials called the whole thing off. A few cars went out on track, set some times. And then poor Williams driver George Russell saw his car get absolutely demolished by a loose manhole cover in Turn 3.
Look at all that debris! No one wants to start their weekend shamefully scraping bits of their carbon fiber off the track—especially not the struggling Williams team, who need all the track time they can get.
There are over 300 manhole covers around the circuit, according to Motorsport.com. 300! And, apparently, no one thought to test them out before sending multi-million dollar cars out for some installation laps, because the first practice session was cancelled after Russell’s incident so track officials could make sure every single cover was securely in place.
Williams’ deputy team principal Claire Williams was, understandably, pretty pissed off:
[She] described the situation as “not acceptable”, telling Sky Sports: “It’s not what you would expect from a Formula 1 circuit, the drain covers are supposed to be welded down. We’ll be taking that up with race control.”
Honestly, I can’t blame her. Russell’s car is so messed up that he’s also going to miss the second practice session taking place later today. That would be a downer for anyone—but especially for a rookie driver on a struggling team.
And then, just to add insult to injury, the crane taking Russell’s car back to the pits ran into a bridge. Because nothing says “dysfunction” quite like Baku!
Daniel Ricciardo has summed it up best:
But let’s look on the bright side. Less track time means drivers will have fewer opportunities to really tune their car for ideal race conditions. This could, theoretically, make for a slightly more exciting qualifying session later tomorrow!