Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fastest in the first practice session for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix going four-hundredths of a second faster than the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc. The Dutchman set his fastest time on the soft tyres which put him ahead of both the Ferrari’s with Leclerc going almost three tenths faster than teammate Carlos Sainz.
Verstappen goes into this weekend looking to build his grip on his lead over Sir Lewis Hamilton in the driver’s championship. Ferrari’s strong performance in Monaco appears to still be there as Leclerc remained close, the question remaining are they going to be genuine challengers this weekend?
Red Bull took victory on the streets of Monaco, however, the Baku circuit is very different high speed and high downforce, Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez was fourth, four and a half tenths behind.
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo may a strong start to his weekend going fifth fastest, his teammate Lando Norris was eighth. Norris was first out onto the circuit which proved from the very start to be dirty, leading to plenty of drivers making minor mistakes but the session went by without red flags.
The British team are expected to be leading the battle for third fastest team, however, Norris’s best lap saw him spin at Turn Sixteen where the wind blows in off the Caspian Sea. McLaren appears to have the pace, with Ricciardo managing to top the session at one point, backing up the thinking that they could be very
The minor errors leading to yellow flags and VSC’s did prevent Mercedes from getting a clean hot lap in, which left Sir Lewis Hamilton seventh-fastest behind the Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly.
The seven-time champion setting a 43.8 on the soft tyre which was seven-tenths off championship leader Verstappen, ahead of Norris. Hamilton’s sectors also suggest that there could be more to come from the Mercedes this weekend.
Also, there is a lot to be found with track evolution being a street circuit, already times have improved by four and a half seconds from the first lap set by Leclerc.
Fernando Alonso was ninth fastest putting his Alpine just over a tenth faster than Valtteri Bottas who rounded out the top ten. Alfa Romeo appears to be the strongest of the lower end teams, Kimi Raikkonen going eleventh fastest around a tenth and a half ahead of teammate Antonio Giovinazzi.
Lance Stroll was thirteenth a hundredth and a half ahead of Aston Martin teammate Sebastian Vettel, the duo being spilt by the Alpha Tauri of Yuki Tsunoda. The Japanese driver had a minor spin at Turn Four, after he managed to clip the wall in the braking zone.
Esteban Ocon was sixteenth ahead of both the Williams and Haas’s, the Alpine driver going just six-thousandths of a second faster than George Russell. Nicholas Latifi going ahead of Mick Schumacher and his teammate Nikita Mazepin.