In an incident Williams head of performance engineering Rob Smedley called “a shitty set of circumstances,” Valtteri Bottas’ Williams F1 car kicked up a drain cover at the new Baku track. The cover damaged Bottas’ car during the final practice session for the race and sent debris flying towards nearby marshals.
Bottas, whose car sustained damage to its bodywork and radiator, was understandably angry when he spoke with Autosport:
It’s not acceptable at all that these kind of things still happen.
It’s not the first drain cover in F1 that has come loose, and luckily it was in the pitlane.
Likewise, Smedley is urging everyone’s favorite pro-oppressive-regime single-seater series to take safety issues like this more seriously, as he explained to Autosport:
Charlie Whiting and his people from the FIA are pretty relentless in their quest for making the track safer, for getting rid of any stupidity in terms of layouts or anything like that.
All we can do is be thankful nobody got hurt - either the driver or the marshals, who had quite a near miss with the drain cover that flew off and went towards them, and second of all try and learn from it.
The promoter, the FIA, and the teams themselves should see if there’s a better way of working to avoid these things.
As Bottas mentioned, this is not the first giant chunk of metal to get kicked up by a Formula One car this year. Jenson Button’s car kicked up a metal drain cover at Monaco that destroyed the front of his car.