Mercedes Valtteri Bottas was fastest in the first practice session for this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The Finn set a 44.2 on the ultrasoft tyres going three thousandths off a second faster than the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo.
The Finn was almost a second faster than his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton who was fourth. This weekend Mercedes are looking for a strong weekend, as they want their first win of the season. It was also a good session for Force India’s Sergio Perez who was third.
Hamilton meanwhile was nearly second off his Mercedes teammate. The two Mercedes setting there times on the fastest ultrasoft tyres, while Ricciardo and Perez did there fastest times on the slower supersofts. Max Verstappen’s difficult start to the season continued.
The Red Bull driver had been fastest when he was trying to improve his time, but as he turned into six, he hit the wall bringing the virtual safety car out. The Dutchman was unable to get the car going again and The collision snapped the front wing, when he tried to get the car going again it stalled and refused to restart.
After a strong start to the season, it was a very disappointing start to the weekend for Ferrari. Both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were well off the pace, they could only manage tenth and fifteenth fastest.
The Finn’s afternoon was also cut short because of a problem with the rear of the car, while Vettel struggled with rear grip.
This could leave Ferrari on the back foot in tomorrow’s qualifying. Ferrari has looked strong all season, however, the Baku circuit has been favourable to Mercedes in recent years because of its long straights and fast corners.
Force India was best of the rest, Perez’s teammate Esteban Ocon was fifth fastest ahead of Verstappen and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard showing that the team has reduced the top speed deficit. Sergey Sirotkin was eighth fastest for Williams, ahead of Pierre Gasly.
Sirotkin’s teammate Lance Stroll was eleventh fastest, ahead of Brendon Hartley and Nico Hulkenberg.
A number of drivers struggled for grip throughout the session. A series of lockups meant that Haas drivers Romain Grosjean was fourteenth and Kevin Magnussen only managing eighteen.
Both Renault’s abandoned their sessions early, because of big lockups. Nico Hulkenberg finishing thirteenth and his teammate, Carlos Sainz was twentieth.