Lewis Hamilton was fastest during the first practice session for this weekend’s Grand Prix of Europe in Baku. The world champion was .3 of a second faster than his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg and Williams Valtteri Bottas was third.
The session allowed drivers to get to know the new street circuit around Azerbaijan’s capital which has a mix of the last two races in Montreal and Monte Carlo. The circuit which wides it way through the medieval part is very tight and has cause concerns for some drivers about safety.
It was a strong performance from Williams who pushed to be the only car within a second of the sliver arrows. McLaren put in a surprise performance to go fourth on a high speed circuit on the soft tyre. The Spaniard was 1.5 seconds off the pace of the Mercedes and ahead of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari.
As ever street circuits are bound to claim a few causalities the first was Daniel Ricciardo the first to have a major incident. The Australian hit the wall which ripped his rear wing off after he hit the rear which brought out the red flag.
If Red Bull didn’t have enough work already Max Verstappen was forced to stop his session after just four laps after a oil leak which caused a problem with his clutch.
Carlos Sainz also had a similar incident as soon as the session resumed, but unlike Ricciardo managed to only cause damage to his front wing which broke the mountings. Hamilton also escaped the same fate as Ricciardo after locking up his tyres, but caused no other damage to his Mercedes.
Hamilton is normally better than his team-mates when they go to new circuits. While Rosberg walked the track yesterday Hamilton chooses not to has he has always done through-out his career, instead he likes to use the simulator to learn.
Hamilton put that into practice to go faster when the pair started to trade lap times, before the crashes. Bottas was the fastest on the soft tyre while Fernando Alonso used the same type of tyre to a second faster than Jenson Button. Thou he was aided by the slipstream of Haas’s Esteban Gutierrez.