Only two cars had clocked lap times in the opening minutes before Briton Russell, at high speed, ran over a cover, which had been lifted slightly by a previous vehicle, and suffered impact damage to the floor which sent debris across the circuit.
As Russell pulled over on the exit of Turn 3, the session was red-flagged for his FW42 to be extricated while track workers attempted to force the manhole cover back in its place.
In more farcical scenes, the mobile crane truck carrying Russell's stricken Williams back to the pits then hit the underside of a sponsor hoarding spanning the track, leaking hydraulic fluid onto the vehicle.
The damaged crane then started leaking hydraulic fluid over Russell's Williams.
"I got the biggest smack through my body, and the whole engine turned off", Russell said.
Ferrari new boy Charles Leclerc had set the quickest of the opening laps in one minute and 47.497 seconds. We were on the normal racing line and it's completely ruined our session. "I've never seen that before".
"There clearly should be some recompense", a disappointed deputy team principal Claire Williams told Sky Sports television.
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She said: "It's clear from the data and what everyone can see that there is a lot of damage to the floor of the auto and who knows what else".
"We'll have to wait and see if that chassis is repairable or if we have to go to our third chassis".
Haas were awarded an undisclosed amount after Romain Grosjean's auto ran over a loose drain cover in practice for the 2017 Malaysian GP, increasing the prospect of Williams getting reimbursed. "That's not what Formula 1 tracks should be".
The first practice session was eventually abandoned as the track not only needed to be cleared, but the oil needs to be cleaned up along with a thorough check of the 320 manhole covers around the circuit.
Similar incidents have happened before at street circuits, including a pit lane drain cover damaging Valtteri Bottas' Williams in Baku in 2016.
They say they welded the drain covers but obviously that one was far from welded today.
"We're an independent team, and we have a very strict budget to control. Oh well, just gives me extra time to catch up on Game of Thrones", Hamilton wrote via his Instagram Stories.