MELBOURNE (Reuters) - A discarded plastic bag was blamed as the likely culprit for causing Russian rookie Sergey Sirotkin to retire four laps into his Formula One debut with Williams in Australia on Sunday.
The 22-year-old had lined up on the back row of the starting grid, 19th of the 20 drivers, and any hopes of progressing up through the field disappeared when he became the first retirement of the season.
Williams technical head Paddy Lowe said the Mercedes-powered car’s rear brakes had failed.
“Our provisional analysis is that a plastic bag has been collected on the circuit, completely blocking the brake cooling, so that the right rear corner caught fire and eventually failed the hydraulics circuit,” he said.
“His brake pedal went to the floor and he had to go down the escape lane.”
Williams have the youngest line-up in Formula One, with 19-year-old Canadian Lance Stroll — who is in his second season — in the other car.
The former world champions, who finished fifth overall last year but look likely to tumble down the standings this season unless they can make a big step up in performance, need their drivers to get all the race experience they can.
Stroll, who stood on the podium in Azerbaijan in his 2017 debut season, finished 14th.
The youngster lost out at the start to Force India’s Esteban Ocon and was then passed by the Sauber of Monegasque rookie Charles Leclerc at the safety car re-start.
“We were in the wrong mode on the first lap and that is the reason Ocon got me,” he said. “We also have none of the extra power we need for the safety car restart which is where I lost the place to Leclerc.
“We are just basically trying to get the car to the end of the race instead of racing.
“There was a lot going on today with big issues that cost us a lot of race time. I hope we can find the solution before Bahrain.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Pritha Sarkar