George Russell says the manhole cover he hit during Azerbaijan Grand Prix practice was just “10 or 15 millimetres” away from entering the cockpit of his Williams Formula 1 car.

Moments after Charles Leclerc had dislodged the manhole cover, Russell hit the loose cover at speed early on in FP1, leading to the session being red-flagged and then abandoned.

The impact destroyed much of the floor on Russell’s car and required the British squad to carry out a chassis change, with team boss Claire Williams seeking compensation after estimating the damage costs to be in the “hundreds of thousands” region.

“I knew I hit something on the track but I didn’t realise it was a manhole cover,” Russell explained.

“It was already quite bumpy down the straight as it is. But like I said was quite a shock when I smashed it, really dangerous.

“If that was 10 or 15 millimetres higher it’s going straight into where I’m sat, so could have been much worse, but a shame for all the guys. You’ve got your full programme, plans for the weekend and it all gets thrown down the drain, literally.

“It was obviously a very large hit, was just shocked more than anything,” he added.

“Going down the straight doing normal stuff and got a big hit and obviously a lot of damage, the car turned off straight away because of the damage. Real shame for all of the mechanics to repair the car and it was all down the drain after one lap.

“On a street circuit there’s quite a few bumps and that was quite an aggressive one. As soon as I hit it the car turned off as it set the fire extinguishers off. Bit of a shame. I feel sorry for the mechanics who had to do this work when it was not their fault?

“These circuits are designed to the highest standards. One of those things. Everybody does their job. Nobody plans for this to happen but it’s just an unfortunate situation.”

Russell was forced to sit out of second practice as a result, leaving the Briton feeling as though he is heading into the rest of the weekend “blind”.

“I’ve lost both practice sessions now,” Russell said. “Obviously everyone lost FP1, but I lost 40 laps maybe in this session. Only one hour before quali and we won’t be doing much more than one qualifying session I suspect, so we’re going into the race quite blind.

“I’ve got to just go out and don’t do anything stupid. I want to treat tomorrow like an FP1. I can’t go out full attack as I still need to learn the circuit and get my bearings again.”



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