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First Practice For Baku Grand Prix Abandoned After Driver Hits Loose Drain Cover

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Technicians recover George Russell's car after it struck a loose drain cover and came to a halt on the Baku City Circuit on April 26.

The first practice session of the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix Formula One motor race was abandoned after only 10 minutes on April 26 after British racing driver George Russell’s car struck a loose drain cover at high speed – scattering fragments of the car’s floor across the course and forcing him to stop.

Making matters worse for Russell, a member of the Williams racing team, the tow truck that was taking his car back to the pits struck a bridge and fluid from its damaged crane spewed out onto Russell’s engine cover.

Claire Williams, the deputy team principal of the Williams race team, said it was "not acceptable" that a drain cover on the Baku City Circuit caused serious damaged to Russell’s car.

"The circuit needs to make sure that their drain covers are bolted down properly," she said. "That’s not what Formula 1 tracks should be."

"I think there’s inevitably going to be quite a lot of damage," Williams said, adding that she will raise the issue with race control. "You can see from the TV that it’s just taken the whole underside out."

Russell’s accident is not the first time a car from the Williams team has suffered damage because of a loose drain cover on the Baku race course.

During the final practice for Azerbaijan’s inaugural European Grand Prix race in 2016, Williams team driver Valitteri Bottas damaged his car in the pitlane when he hit a dislodged drain cover.

Baku began hosting Formula One Grand Prix races in 2016 under a 10-year contract that required the paving of city streets with fresh asphalt.

Some residents complain that the historic character of Baku's Old City has been damaged by the paving over of 200-year-old cobbled streets.

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix will be held on April 28.

Preparations For Formula 1 Transform Historic Baku
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Based on reporting by AP, dpa, and the BBC
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