Red Bull’s Max Verstappen topped the times by almost half a second over his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in the first practice session for this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The Dutchman set his fastest lap on the supersoft tyres to go faster than the Australian. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was third, with his Mercedes title rival Lewis Hamilton fifth fastest. However the two title rivals didn’t set a competitive lap using the fastest compound of tyres.
Force India’s Sergio Perez was fifth, despite a shunt with the wall at Turn Eight. The Mexican took too much kerb going into the narrow uphill second and couldn’t correct his mistake, with his front right hitting the wall.
The impact left shards of scattered carbon fibre over the circuit, that meant that a red flag was inevitable. Until that point in the session, Perez looked strong with the Mexican over three-tenths clear of team-mate Esteban Ocon.
Like Hamilton, team-mate Valtteri Bottas did manage a quick lap on the super-softs but was 0.240secs slower than Hamilton’s best time on softs. That will not give the team much confidence as the circuit is very much like Sochi, where Bottas narrowly took victory.
Hamilton, however, struggled to get a clean lap in, on his first run he made a mistake and then was caught in traffic. Bottas wasn’t having a clean afternoon either, the Finn making his own mistakes.
Williams Felipe Massa was a solid eighth after setting his time on the supersoft tyres going ahead of his former Ferrari team-mate, Kimi Raikkonen.
A number of drivers struggled with locking wheels into the tight right-angled corners that abound in Baku, including Renault’s under-pressure Jolyon Palmer. The Englishman went too deep into turn one and ran wide twice, finishing 1.3 seconds off team-mate Nico Hulkenberg.
Lance Stroll was just outside the tope ten, ahead of the Haas’s of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean. McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne finished ahead of his team-mate Fernando Alonso, with the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz in between them