Formula 1

Baku circuit to give Williams compensation for FP1 manhole incident

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George Russell - Formula 1 - 2019 Azerbaijan GP
Credit: Williams Racing

Williams Racing will receive compensation for the damage inflicted on George Russell‘s car in Free Practice 1 in last weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix after the Brit collided heavily with a manhole cover, ending the session prematurely.

The cover, situated in between Turns 2 and 3 at the Baku City Circuit, was worked loose by Scuderia Ferrari‘s Charles Leclerc before the rookie Williams driver ran over the hazard, causing significant damage to the underside of the Williams and forcing the team to send the chassis back to its Grove factory.

Russell later said that he was millimetres away from a more serious accident that could have put his health in jeopardy.

Baku’s Formula 1 management team met with team principal Claire Williams through the weekend, and both parties have reached an amicable agreement.

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix promoter, Arif Rahimov, said that he was looking to get the matter resolved as quickly as possible and stressed that the circuit accepted responsibility and was sorry for the inconvenience and expense incurred.

“Obviously this is our fault, we did admit it,” Rahimov told Autosport.

“It’s something that we as a circuit shouldn’t have allowed. We have checked again our insurance policy and it is fully covered.

“Our legal department is talking to Williams’ legal department and they will be reimbursed in full.

“Obviously there are no hard feelings, as we both understand that it was never meant to be and it was definitely not on purpose.

“We were very apologetic and we also sent some flowers to say we were really sorry about what happened.”

This is not the first time the standards of the Baku circuit has been called into question, with kerb plates lifting and causing cuts to tyres during the inaugural event in 2016 – workers were also seen welding without protective face masks.

Some areas had painted kerbs installed as a makeshift measure.

F1, the Baku track and the race promoters came to agreement to extend the race’s contract in February – in a deal that runs to the end of 2023.

Rahimov said that during the cancellation of Free Practice 1 and the start to Free Practice 2 – as well as before Saturday’s running – all other drain covers were scrutinised and passed circuit checks.

We started checking all the manholes and all the drains twice per day: once in the evening after all the racing was finished and once early in the morning before the curfew and before the cars went out on the track,” Rahimov said.

“We had several teams going around the track checking each of the 300 plus manholes and drains, so we’ve definitely taken it more seriously.

“We will definitely make sure that this never happens again.”

Russell’s crash and and ensuing insurance dilemma is also not new to F1, after the Haas F1 Team‘s Romain Grosjean hit a loose drain cover in Free Practice for the 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix, writing off the right rear corner of the car.

Haas had to wait a year for reimbursement, something that Rahimov is eager to avoid.

“We have mentioned [Haas’s problem] to Williams,” he added.

“We spoke to the insurance company [that] we need to make sure this happens as soon as possible, not a year, because they need this money so they can use it this season.

“We will push the insurance company to expedite the claim and pay Williams as soon as possible.”

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